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I got an email just now from The CMC Company (also the source of my contraband szechuan peppercorns ... but that's another thread). They're selling Chilhuacle Negro, a chile I have never heard of previously but that a quick Google search informs me is a key ingredient in Mole Negro for $12.50 for 4 ounces. Whoa.

 

Given that the only other online source I could find, Melissa Guerra, sells 1 oz. of the same chiles for $4.95, this price doesn't seem quite so outrageous. But I gotta wonder...

 

Their email says, in part

Hard to find, expensive and without a reasonable substitute, this chile will be offered by CMC briefly in March of 2005. Our supply will be strictly limited and we ask that if you are interested you book your order with us by March 4th if at all possible. Late orders may not be fulfilled.
Sounds interesting, but frankly this kind of hard sell always makes me leery.

 

I'd love to hear your experiences with Chilhuacle Negro, and whether you think they're worth trying at this price.

 

Gracias,

~A

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I've made Zarela Martinez' Mole Negro two times, once substituting her suggestions [which I can't recall at the moment] for the Chiluacle, the second using a small stash I found for $20 a pound at Central Market here in Austin [said find never to be repeated]. I can't say that, with all the other layers of flavors in this complex mole, I found a noticeable difference. I once asked Susannah Trilling about the difficulty of sourcing it and the price - she said that even in Oaxaca it's not all that common in the market and goes for the equivalent of $15-20 a pound.

 

That being said, I kept one chile that resides in my spice rack to remind me to be vigilant in my shopping, just in case some more cross the border. I'm not putting in a chile order from CMC, but they do give good service - I also ordered those difficult-to-obtain Szechuan peppercorns last year.

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Yes, I received that email as well. I have always heard the rarity of the chile and the price.

Oddly, I always managed to find them quite easily when I'm in Oaxaca. Got a stash right now. It's the same with the smoke chile pasilla de Oaxaca. They are always saying how rare they are, but damn, they are all over Oaxaca. Perhaps they mean, you can't find them anywhere else in Mexico and are never exported and that makes them rare. I don't know.

They are expensive, but when in the markets in Mexico, check for prices. They vary drastically for equal quality.

I like to keep my moles as authentic as possible so I use the chilhuacle negro. You will notice that everyone has their favourite recipe using different combinations of chilies. What ever floats your mole.

You know if you have one still sitting around, why don't you plant some seeds? You could contribute to populating your area with chilhuacle negro. It is more than likely a heritage chilie pepper.

I think the CMC company is great by the way., but I want to pick out my own chilies. Guess I'm not a good internet or catalog shopper.

And you can't get szechuan peppercorns???? Wow, they are readily available on the West Coast of Canada for next to nothing. Gee, should I get into mail order?

Shelora

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Interesting stuff, thanks. Since I'm not planning on being in Oaxaca anytime soon, I may give them a whirl just to see if I can taste the difference. It's not that they're so expensive in and of themselves, but relative to the cost of other chiles...

 

Szechuan peppercorns: Yeah, the dang things are banned, or at least still severly restricted, in the U.S. due to being carriers of a citrus pest. But, as Alton would say: That's another show. (OTOH, if you're up to reading 12 pages of ramblings on the subject, check out this link.)

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It's funny, I found them very easily when I went to Oaxaca, I brought back a sackfull and just went through the last of them. And I did plant the seeds. They are a little tricky to grow but I had good germination.

 

I think if you are hesitant and price is an issue, there are hundreds of other wonderful Mexican dishes made with easier to obtain ingredients to do first, although I know the hard-to-find aspect can make it more appealing.

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Price isn't really an issue; $12.50 isn't going to bust a hole in my food budget. I was just wondering what it was about them that made them so much more pricey than the average dried chile. But if you can't get to Oaxaca, and they're truly difficult to find, they're potentially worth the cost if the flavor is discernably different than substitutes. Seems like a worthy topic of investigation. :blush:

 

~A

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My recollection is that one batch of Zarela's mole negro made a huge pot, so invite lotsa folks - I froze individual portions and gave them away as holiday presents with instructions to thin a bit with water - Jaymes can give you a review, she got some....

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