Seven years ago, when I was first introduced to traditional Mexican food, I was astounded by the variety and beauty of salsas. When I returned to the U.S., I attempted to duplicate those salsas, as well as most of the food I had eaten, but I realized that I had a lot to learn. No matter how much I tried, I could never get my salsas to be that deep red color that I remembered so well. I thought, “The tomatoes must be better in Mexico,” but I later learned that it wasn’t the tomato that provided that burst of scarlet color. It was dried peppers. The moment that I realized this, everything changed and the world of Mexican cooking expanded tenfold.
Dried peppers are an essential part of Mexican cooking, and I continue to be amazed by their diversity. I am still learning about all of the different types of chiles and how each one is used, and I will admit that I still sometimes get confused between their names, heats, and characteristics. Language always manages to develop dialects, and the vocabulary of the kitchen is no exception. If you travel throughout Mexico, you will notice that there are regional names for the different chiles, and this can complicate things when you are trying to decipher a recipe.
For a long time now, I have wanted to create a dictionary of sorts cataloging fresh and dried chile peppers, a resource that I could refer to when making recipes. I know that I will learn a lot in doing this, but I also hope that this may serve as a reference to other cooks who might be new to Mexican cuisine. I will categorize these posts under the FOOD – INGREDIENTS tab and will create subcategories for both fresh and dried chiles. Later, I will reference these posts when I create a mole, pipián, or salsa that calls for a pepper.
If you have any questions at any point in time, please do not hesitate to ask. Now, without further adieu, I present my first post in this ongoing series about the world of chiles.
Name: Chile Cascabel
AKA: chile bola, rattle chile (sometimes called: chiles guajones or chiles coras)
Fresh Chile Name: This chile is known by the same name both fresh and dried.
Description: The chile cascabel is a plump and smooth and ranges in color brown a dark brown to a deep red color. They are about 1 ½” in diameter (the side of a ping pong ball). The word cascabel means rattle or bell in Spanish. These chiles received this name because their seeds rattle when you shake them.
Flavor and Heat: The chile cascabel has a slightly acidic and very earthy flavor. It is considered a mild heat chile ranging from 1,000-2,500 on the Scoville Heat Scale.
Substitutions: Guajillo, Puya
Other Information: The cascabel is grown in several states throughout Mexico including Coahuila, Durango, Jalisco, and San Luis Potosí.
Do you have a favorite recipe using chile cascabel?
Source: Some of the information about this pepper was obtained at www.spicesinc.com.