Ancho is the dried form of poblano, a mild Mexican chili pepper which grows to about 4 inches in length. It is slightly sweet in taste with very little heat and resembles a wrinkled and flat heart which is brownish in color. The mild hot flavor is utilized in Mexican dishes, and the pepper is regarded as a standard ingredient of tamales and chilies.
The chilies are grown throughout the year and can be converted into the dried form by roasting it. Storing it in air-tight containers is necessary and the preserved ingredients lasts for as long as a year without showing any signs of spoilage.
The Ancho has a dusky flavor and is one of the basic ingredients of commercial chili powders. It is used to prepare enchilada sauces, adoboados and chile con carne dishes as well. It is usually allowed to soak in tepid water for about half an hour before use.
The chili powder prepared by grinding anchos are used extensively to flavor baked potatoes, popcorns and soups. Chicken stews as well as a horde of vegetable dishes are also made spicier with the help of this dried chili powder. It is a prominent ingredient of mole sauces.
The chili growing indigenously in the city of Pueblo in Mexico is now cultivated extensively with almost 37,000 acres being planted with the chili plant. It is also widely available in the USA and is considered to be an important part of Tex-Mex food.
The chili powder measures 1000-2000 on the Scoville scale.
History Of Ancho Or Dried Poblano Chili
The pepper as well as its dried form has been used by the Native Indians of South and Central America since 5000 BC. Christopher Columbus introduced them to Europe after the Spanish invaders settled in the area. Ancho was originally mistaken for the black pepper seasoning but gained in popularity soon afterwards. It has been used for both culinary as well as medicinal purposes since the early 17th century.
Preparation Overview of Ancho Seasoning
Making the ancho seasoning from fresh, green poblano chilies involves the following steps.
- Selection of fresh, dark green colored poblanoes with long stems are ideal for preparing ancho.
- Tying the peppers by their stem with the help of a twine is mandatory.
- The next step involves hanging the strand of chilies in a dry area which receives enough air for good circulation.
- It is customary to wait for several weeks until the peppers turn dry and smooth, attaining a dark red hue.
- The stems of the peppers are then cut off with the aid of a sharp knife.
- The membrane encasing the seeds is removed completely from the peppers without damaging the seeds.
- The peppers are sliced to ½ inch sized pieces.
- Complete dehydration of the peppers is ensured by roasting them lightly over low flame while placing them in a heavy bottomed skillet.
- The dry peppers are finally ground into a powder with the help of a food processor or grinder. The powder is usually fine but may be ground into a coarser variety according to personal preference.
Culinary Uses of Ancho
The dried chili powder is regarded as an important ingredient of Mexican cuisine. It is used for:-
- Seasoning soups, broths and stewed dishes.
- Spicing mince beef and sauces.
- Cooking dishes belonging to the South-Western cuisine.
- Seasoning nachos, tacos, burritos, quesadillas and egg dishes.
- Preparing niblets corn, black bean dishes and salsas
- Garnishing Mexican dishes along with cilantro and wedges of lime.
Old Texan Beef- A dish prepared with lean beef that is cooked with olive oil and jalapeno chilies along with blended ancho seeds.
Chocolate Silk- A heated concoction of unsweetened chocolate, steamed ancho and marshmallow cream. It is cooled and then frozen before serving with a topping of crushed peanuts.
Mole' Poblano- A mole sauce prepared with dried chipotle peppers, ancho chiles, pasilla and mulato along with various spices, tortilla breads and tomatoes.
Pork Tamales- A pork dish cooked with pureed chipotle pepper and ancho which is served with corn filled tamales.
- Red Chili- East Texas Style- A slow cooked dish of chili meat prepared with ancho, paprika, tomatoes and spices along with chocolate.
Health Benefits of Dried Poblano Chilies
The ancho contains Capsaicin, the active ingredient of all chilies which is beneficial for health. The dried chilies or chili powder can be utilized to:-
- Reduce inflammation of tissues and joints.
- Regulate the body metabolism thus promoting weight loss.
- Help in insulin secretion by the pancreas.
- Lessen pain and aches associated with infection and trauma.
- Decrease depression due to the presence of endorphins.
- Improve blood circulation by widening the blood vessels.
Ancho means 'wide' in Spanish and the dried chili had been so named due to its broad base.