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Jun 10, 2009 02:33 PM

Dried Chile Connection

I'm going to need 5-10 pounds of various dried chilies for pig roast. At the local latino market they are about $6lb in the bulk bin. There's plenty of turnover, but the chilies are more supermarket than farmer's market (yes, I'm a snob). Fancier online retailers sell what I presume to be better quality, perhaps less industrial, for $15lb--they better be anyway, for that much more markup.

Any recommendations for online sources for chilies somewhere in between?

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  1. Penzey's?

    Hey, I'm a chilehead but I'm skeptical of noticeably superior quality from online retailers (but I'm open to a little proof); most seem to cater to the Herb & Spice challenged regions. Perhaps someone familiar with New Mexico sources (mainly Hatch) will speak up.

    The best dried chiles I've seen are in large cell bags BUT you have to choose by appearance - shiny and clean wins, dull and dusty loses. I agree about the 'bin' chiles, quality varies tremendously. Visit several markets - timing is everything.

    Face it, except for 'exotics' dried chiles are a commodity item - there are cultivars 'optimized' for this segment but who knows if the flavor is better (likely not, other factors are more important to agribusiness). Labeling rules are so lax it is rarely possible to know what is labeled 'California', 'New Mexico', 'Paprika', etc. Not to mention the usual regional confusion (see Pasilla). The local spice packers likely get their chiles from the exact same sources as most online sellers like Penzeys.

    BTW are these chiles for a marinade and/or salsas? Being fussy for the former app seems a little over the top.

    1. Penzey's or The Spice House will charge you more for dried chile, and they will have a few different varieties