Chipotles are smoked jalapenos and are used primarily in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines. Jalapenos are from the species Capsicum annuum. The harder to find Chipotle "Meco" chiles are also known as Chile "Meco" or Chipotle Tipico.
In a typical jalapeno field, a grower makes multiple passes harvesting the unripe green jalapenos for local markets. At the end of the growing season, the remaining jalapenos have fully ripened turning a brilliant red and there is a growing demand for these freshly picked, ripened red jalapenos in both the U.S. and Mexico.
While the Chipotle has become wildly popular in the U.S. in the last 20 years a true chilehead knows there is more than one type of Chipotle. There are actually two types of chipotle chiles - "Morita" and "Meco". Both the Morita and the Meco are smoked jalapenos.
The more commonly used in our country is the Chipotle "Morita" chile. "Morita" translates to "little blackberry" in Spanish, these chiles are the smaller of the two and are more leathery and pliable. The "Meco" is larger and stiffer with a grayish-tan coloring and is best described as looking like a cigar butt.
"Morita" Chipotles are picked when the jalapenos are still green and are then smoked. "Meco" Chipotle chiles are mature jalapenos that are left on the bush even longer than those that are picked as red jalapenos to be sold at various markets. This additional time on the bush results in an even deeper red color and as these chiles start losing their moisture they're then harvested to be transformed into "Meco" chipotles.
"Meco" chipotles are smoked for about twice as long as "Moritas" which gives them a more intense and richer flavor. In northern Mexico fully ripened red jalapenos are smoked in large pits on a racks constructed of bamboo, metal or wood. Another pit is built nearby that houses the fire and there is a connecting tunnel where drafts of air pull the smoke up and over the pods.
"Meco" Chipotles smoked in this time honored Mexican tradition are much more difficult to get here in the U.S. and depending on the supplier may be much more expensive than the "Moritas" with prices typically being $4-$8 more per lb. Because of this big price difference be aware of either unscrupulous suppliers or suppliers lacking sufficient knowledge selling "Moritas" in place of "Mecos". Chipotle “Morita” Chiles are certainly not inferior chiles (just different) as they are actually quite delicious and their flavor profile is even be preferred by some.
Most chileheads view the Chipotle "Meco" chipotle as the better quality of the two and if you've never experienced a Chipotle "Meco" you are in for a real treat!
Chipotle “Meco” Chiles are considered a medium heat chile and come in at 5,000 to 10,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units).
The flavor profile is smoky with a slightly spicy, grassy fruitiness. The "Meco" also tends to hold up better than the "Morita" to stronger flavors.
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