Chipotles in Vineger Sauce

The first time I tried chipotles that weren’t canned was when my mom was visiting me in México City and was staying in a hotel a few blocks from my apartment in the San Rafael. Breakfast was included in the cost of her room and one morning she invited me to eat with her at the hotel.  I don’t remember anymore what we ate for breakfast that morning – it may have been huevos a la mexicana, fried eggs or any number of Mexican breakfasts.  What I do remember is that when we were served we weren’t brought any salsa.  I asked the lady working if she could bring us salsa to accompany our breakfast and she brought us a small plate of homemade chipotles.

The chipotles were delicious.  They were slightly sweet had the perfect amount of heat to them; that spiciness that burns your lips and throat and just barely numbs your mouth, but doesn’t take away the flavor of what you’re eating.  And so began my search for a recipe to replicate the señora´s chipotles.

When I started looking for recipes I came across one that called for ketchup. At first the idea of using such an overly American condiment as part of a chipotle recipe grossed me out.  But, I also sort of liked the idea, because it reminded me of my grandma who was a typical 1950´s and 60´s cook.  She regularly used recipes that had “special ingredients” and that special ingredient was frequently ketchup.

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I decided to give the recipe a chance and as it turned out they were delicious. I would not say that this recipe is authentic, but I highly recommend them. They have become staple in my fridge and both my mom and my roommate have also become addicted. They are not nearly as hot as canned chipotles and can be eaten whole with tacos and can also be used in soups, salsas, in tinga(shredded chicken breast in a tomato/chipotle sauce) as well as to accompany breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

Since the first time I tried the chipotles en escabeche with my mom, I hadn’t tried homemade chipotles, that weren’t made by yours truly, until a few months ago.   I was in the small tourist town of Tepoztlan, Morelos when I came across a pair of older ladies selling homemade salsas, honey and chipotles.  I bought a container of the chiles and was told that the chipotles were prepared with piloncillo, onion, apple cider vinegar and sliced carrots.  When I got home I tried the ladies´ chipotles with a slice of avocado wrapped in a tortilla. They were delicious, but with a much sweeter flavor than the chipotles I had been preparing.  When I had finished them I attempted to prepare this alternative chipotle recipe adding some herbs and a little bit of cinnamon.

The recipes are very similar, but I love them both and therefore will share the two versions.  The first is the recipe with the “special ingredient” and the second is based on the recipe that I got from the señoras in Tepoztlan, Morelos. The chipotles with ketchup taste more like the canned chipotles en adobo, but are not nearly as spicy.  The señoras’ recipe is much sweeter.

In the markets in Mexico many of the vendors also call chipotles chiles moras.  In the U.S. dried chipotles can be hard to find. If you cannot find chipotles or chiles moras you can substitute with chiles moritas.

Version with the “special ingredient”

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  • ½ lb of dried chipotles
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup of ketchup
  •  4 allspice berries
  • 1-2 onions sliced finely sliced
  •  4-8 cloves of garlic sliced
  •  ¼ teaspoon of oregano
  •  ¼ teaspoon of cumin
  •   Water

** You can use more or less onions and garlic depending your personal preferences

Place the chipotles in a medium sized pot, filling it with water until the chiles are covered. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the flame, cover and let the chipotles sit for approximately an hour or until they become soft.

Remove the stems and seeds. (Do not do this with your bare hands. I made that mistake once and my hands were burning for over a week. You can use gloves or two knives, one to hold the chipotle in place, the other two cut it open and scrape out the seeds.)

Once the seeds and stems have been removed put the chipotles back in the pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Add enough water so that the mixture is covered, bring to a boil, and lower the heat.  Cook the chipotles on low heat for between 2 and 3 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water when necessary.

Version based on Chipotles from the señoras in Tepoztlan, Morelos

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  • ½ lb of chipotles
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 1 block of piloncillo (refined brown sugar that is sold in cone shaped blocks. This ingredient can be found in most Mexican grocery stores in the U.S….at least in Chicago)
  • 1-2 onions finely sliced
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  •  A handful of bay leaves
  •  ¼ teaspoon of oregano
  •  1 inch piece of Mexican cinnamon

Put the chiles in a medium sized pot filling it with water so that the chiles are completely covered.  Bring the chiles to a boil, turn off the stove, cover and let sit for about an hour or until the chiles have become soft.

Remove the stems with a knife. Put them back in the pot, add the remaining ingredients adding enough water so that the mixture is completely covered.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and let cook for approximately 2 to 3 hours stirring occasionally and adding water when necessary.

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