Probably the best well-known chipotle peppers are the ones pickled in a spicy sauce (adobo), usually from a can. Out of the ordinary, sweet chipotle peppers are often homemade, and instead of adobo, they are cooked in a sweet sauce with onions (as shown in the photo at the top of the post, on a cemita sandwich.) As I have mentioned in another post, chipotle peppers are ripened jalapeño peppers, dried and smoked. There is a carousel of jalapeño varieties to choose from, and depending on this, chipotles might be known by other names: morita are from a type of small jalapeño peppers, matured to dark red colour on the plant, then dried and smoked, while mora are the same, but prepared with larger peppers, and the true chipotle, sometimes called meco, comes from a striped jalapeño variety, and it is smoked for longer times than the other two. In the photo below, it may be appreciated how a medium green jalapeño pepper (left), has a size that would be somewhere between the striped peppers that are dried for chipotle-meco (top, right) and the smaller variety used for morita (bottom, right):
Meco, or true chipotle, is the preferred variety for chipotles en adobo, but morita peppers are more popular for the sweet recipe. For this post, I decided to try making two half-batches, one with morita and the other with meco peppers.
The sweetness comes from piloncillo, an unrefined product from the reduction of sugar cane juice, which I have used for other recipes; by weight, I would recommend equal parts of dry peppers and piloncillo. My half-batches were small, using 5 chipotle-meco (photo below, left|), and 6 morita (photo below, right):
The combined weight of my peppers was a little over 50 g. In some countries in Latin America, products similar to piloncillo may be formed into flat circular shapes, or sold granulated, but in Mexico it is moulded in the shape of truncated cones, or pylons (see photo below, left). As seen in the photo, the whole cone was over 200 g, so for my recipe, I would need about one quarter of the cone. Breaking these cones might prove frustrating, but the secret is to use a strong serrated knife and just score a line all around the cone, moving the knife back and forth, as if cutting wood, three or four times then turning (photo below, centre); after that, tap the cone on the working surface, and it should crack along the marked circle. I separated one small piece from the top, then a second, which was just a little over 60 g. (photo below, right):
I decided to leave it like that, instead of trying to slice a few grams off the piece. As seen above, I further cut it in half, to use in my two half-batches. If piloncillo is not available, muscovado or dark brown sugar work, too, at approximately 15g per tablespoon, so in this case, it would be four tablespoons (equal to 1/4 cup).
A flavourful spice used in this recipe is Mexican cinnamon (Ceylon, Cinnamomum verum). I have mentioned the similarities and differences between Mexican and the more common cinnamon (Cassia, C. aromaticum). In spite of Cassia being much stronger, it may be used in some recipes in the same quantities as, and to substitute, Mexican cinnamon (Ceylon), but in this case, if Mexican cinnamon is not available, use only a pinch of ground cinnamon.
Sweet Chipotle Peppers – Chipotles dulces
Ingredients (for approximately two cups)
50 g dry chipotle peppers (12 morita, or 10 chipotle meco)
1 cup freshly boiled, very hot water, plus more, as needed
½ white onion; peeled and thinly sliced (approximately one cup)
4 cloves garlic; peeled
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp oil, such as olive
60 g piloncillo (or ¼ cup muscovado or brown sugar)
8 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Piece Mexican cinnamon stick, approximately 2 inches long (5 cm), or just a pinch ground cinnamon
½ tsp dry marjoram
1 tsp salt, or to taste; divided
Wash dry peppers in cold water, drain and place in a bowl; add hot water. Since I was preparing two half-batches, after dividing the hot water amongst the two bowls, the peppers were not fully immersed:
If this happens, even if preparing a full batch, add more hot water, as needed, to fully cover the peppers. Allow to soak for at least one hour. In the meantime, measure and get the rest of the ingredients ready:
Place the sliced onions in a non-reactive bowl, then add half a teaspoon of salt, the black peppercorns, the marjoram, and one tablespoon of oil (photo below, left); mix thoroughly with a fork, separating the onion layers and coating with oil (photo below, right):
Once the peppers look hydrated, warm up the other tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat; add garlic cloves and sauté for about one minute, stirring and turning constantly to avoid burning. Add bay leaves and cinnamon and continue to cook for just a few seconds (photo below, left). Add peppers with the soaking water, the rest of the salt, piloncillo and apple cider vinegar (photo below, right, for morita peppers):
For my half-batches, I divided aromatics and other ingredients amongst two pots. The photo below, left, shows the chipotle-meco peppers, being stirred with half the add-ins. Continue stirring until the piloncillo dissolves completely, and the liquid comes to a boil (photo below, right, with morita):
Reduce the heat to bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking for the peppers to be fully hydrated and soft; add more hot water as needed. Uncover the pot and continue cooking and stirring, to reduce the liquid, until the bottom of the pan may be seen when scraped with a wooden spoon (photo below, left, with chipotle-meco). Turn off the heat and add reserved onions, with any juice that might have formed (photo below, right, with morita):
Mix perfectly, coating the onions with the reduction; adjust seasoning with more salt, if needed, to taste. Cover pot and allow to cool down to room temperature. Transfer to jars with lids; I got enough to fill two jars, each with a one-cup (237 ml) capacity:
The jars may be kept refrigerated for a couple of weeks, or processed in a hot water bath for five minutes for preserving.
My batches were small and I wanted to compare them, so I served and tasted portions the next day. As seen below, they are very similar; interestingly, the sauce of the chipotle-meco (on the left) is darker, although the morita peppers themselves (on the right) have a darker tone:
In terms of flavour, the sauce, as expected, had a smokier taste for the chipotle-meco. I would say that based solely on availability, either peppers work well but, if there is a choice, morita are more traditional and produce a well-rounded flavour, with the right level of smokiness; combined with the spices and sweet piloncillo, the sauce and onions are almost like a jelly.
These sweet chipotles are great to pair with steak, or any other meat, to spice up soups and stews, and they are used in the Mexican state of Puebla to top their famous cemitas preparadas, an iconic sandwich made with the unbreakable kit of: cemitas (buns that name the dish), pápalo herb, and sweet chipotles:
I prepared the sandwiches in my previous post; in my next post, I will be sharing my recipe for homemade cemita buns.
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I am sharing my recipe at Happiness is Homemade #379 hosted by Linda @ A Labour of Life, Sinea @ Ducks ‘n a Row, Beverly @ Eclectic Red Barn, Katie @ Love My Messy Messy Mess, Mel @ Décor Craft Design, and Niki @ Life as a Leo Wife.