There’s magic in those little tins of chipotles en adobo. Some of the first dried chilies I learned to love were dried chipotles and moritas. I would buy them by the bale on trips to the southwestern US. But I remember the day that I opened my first can of chipotles en adobo. Something completely different; something that opened a whole new world of flavor and possibility. Cans of chipotles en adobo have found a place in my pantry ever since.
What makes them so good? First there’s the smoke, always the smoky goodness. But there’s more. Because the chilies were dried and smoked first, they have soaked up the flavors of the adobo. The adobo makes what was already good into a much more complex element. That element fits into many dishes so well.
You know what’s next. I had to make them myself. By using the best chilies, the best ingredients in the adobo, and the right combination of spices, I knew I could knock this fastball out of the park!
The story starts in January when I select the seed for the following summer’s chile crop. One thing I noticed about the best chipotles is that the jalapenos they are made from are heavily corked. Corking is the pattern of lines on the skin of certain chilies. Corking is the result of fluctuating soil moisture during the growing season. Alternating periods of dry weather followed by soaking rains causes the pepper to grow at varying rates, the skin reacts by corking. For years, I have always selected the most heavily corked peppers for certain applications. This is one of those applications. I discovered a variety called Farmer’s Market Jalapeno, specifically selected to develop a very distinctive, heavy corking pattern.
I think this is important for a few reasons. First, the corking seems to allow the peppers to take up smoke very well. And second, I think they dry better for chipotle as they develop a leathery texture in the process. A look at the dried chipotles in the stores and closely inspecting the ones in the cans indicated that the folks who produce these commercially also tend to select corked peppers.
I planted my seeds in February to get a good jump on the growing season, lengthening the time they would be producing fruit after going in the ground in May. I got a bumper crop. From the mountain of chilies, I selected the ones that looked like they would make the best chipotles. Off to the smoker!
I placed the peppers on racks in The Porkulator, and started a small fire to cold smoke them. I do this with a very low fire, one log at a time and just enough air to keep it smoldering and smoking. 10 hours of smoke does the trick. I typically use cherry, oak, hickory, or pecan wood for this. After the smoke, I put the peppers in my dehydrator to finish. You can use an oven set as low as possible for this, too. After 2-3 days, the peppers are completely dry.
At this point, I sort them again. I set all aside the red ones for this “Project Adobo.” The nicest looking tan ones were set aside for future pots of chili. Any with blemishes went into a pile to be ground into powder.
I ended up with about 3 quarts of the red ones in this batch. I trimmed the stems down since I figured they would just take up room in the jars in the end. Then I put the peppers into a Dutch oven with 4 cups (2 pint jars) of my garden canned tomato sauce, 2 cups homemade apple cider vinegar, 1T sea salt, 1T dried Mexican oregano, 2T tomato powder (made from the dried skins and pulp from the tomatoes that went into my sauce), 1t cumin, 1t granulated garlic, 1/4t cloves, 1/4t cinnamon.
I let that simmer very low until the flavors melded, the peppers soaked up all of the goodness, and the bit of remaining sauce was very thick. I packed the peppers into 8 clean one half pint jelly jars. Seal the jars with clean canning lids and rings, then placed into my pressure canner. I added 2 quarts of water to the canner along with 1T of white vinegar to prevent the jars and canner from getting stained.
Can these jars under 10 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes. Let the canner cool on its own, remove the lid. Place the jars on a towel to finish cooling for 12 hours. Now they are ready to use.
You already know what to do with these beauties, but if you need more suggestions, I will recommend my queso fundido from my post on mushrooms or my banana leaf wrapped pork loin with chipotle-peanut salsa, which was a finalist in a Washington Post tomato recipe contest.