Chipotle and Jalapeño Peppers – one chilli, two devils
Hang on, these are not the same thing; Jalapeños are the things in a jar that I put on my nachos and Chipotle is in my favourite hot sauce (hint: it´s TheSauceMan Beetroot and Chipotle), so what´s the scoop? Well they are, in fact, one in the same.
The difference between Jalapeño and Chipotle peppers
When they are green on the vine, they are a little bitter and sour. You will rarely see them in this form, you are more likely to see them pickled in cans or jars. They have a pleasantly sharp, acidic flavour and add great contrast and a little kick to a whole variety of dishes. You are probably most familiar with them on your nachos down the local Mexican bar, where they cut through the salty chips and cheese combo like a rapacious 14th century explorer’s machete through the wilds of virgin rainforest.
Few words about Chipotle chilli peppers…
Next, we move onto the ubiquitous Chipotle. As I mentioned before, it is the same chilli as above but this time left on the vine to mature to a deep mahogany red. They are then harvested, and placed in wood fire smokers, where they are smoked to within an inch of their life over several days taking the moisture content down from 88% to 8%. When they emerge from their smouldering chrysalis they are shrivelled up like a raisin after a gap year in the Gobi desert and have a wonderful smoky, woody aroma. There are actually two main varieties; the Morita and the Meco. The former is smoked for less time and has a deep purple colour. The latter has a rather unappetizing bark-like appearance (almost like the shell of a cigar) but is more prized than the Morita due to its deep intense, earthy flavour. They are then milled to a powder (think spicy paprika) and used for marinades, soups and sauces.
If you are fortunate enough to get a glimpse of one before smoking, you will see the characteristic brown ‘scorched’ lines. Fun fact: the more brown lines there are the hotter the chilli. No fear though, these are definitely at the mellower end of the Scoville scale, sitting somewhere between 4,000 and 8,000, giving a very gentle warming heat and are a great for giving a very gentle kick to your dishes. At The SauceMan we use the superior Meco chillies, offsetting the sweetness of the beetroot and orange juice, and complimenting the sizzling Habaneros and fragrant hit of rosemary to perfection.
The origin of Jalapeño/Chipotle peppers
This chilli is predominantly grown in the south of the USA and Mexico and is somewhat of a delicate flower – they need to be kept warm at night, are very susceptible to plagues and aphids and need to be well watered but not overwatered. You’re probably better of getting your Chipotle fix from your favourite hot sauce brand. I think I mentioned it at the beginning of the article.