Editor’s Note: Please make sure not to miss the original entry in the Free Lunch series, Kerrygold Blarney Castle. All cheese used in Free Lunch was sent for free by the creameries themselves without any knowledge of how it would be used.
Since I started this blog in early 2009, I have tried many different brands of cheeses. Some have come and gone while others have completely entrenched themselves in my psyche. Kerrygold and Cabot, featured in this series, are two cheeses that I know I will enjoy regardless of the variety. Other cheeses on the list include Tillamook, Beecher’s and the local but nationally growing Mackenzie Creamery. I know I am missing other brands and that the list will continue to grow. Cheese has truly become a part of my life and the companies that produce them have also established themselves in my life. I cannot wait to sample a variety of cheeses and learn the history behind the companies that produce them. Obviously, grilled cheese has become my life, but so has cheese and I am loving every minute of it.
Now onto the
Previously, I have tried other Cabot cheeses, including Cabot Pepper-Jack flavored Cheddar, but I had yet to try their Chipotle flavored Cheddar until now. I was expecting similar flavors between the Pepper-Jack and Chipotle but was pleasantly surprised when I realized the the Chipotle Cheddar tasted nothing like the Pepper-Jack Cheddar.
More on that in a minute.
what is a “chipotle”?
Chipotle is a popular word these days, especially since one of the most prevalent fast-casual chains has the same name. However, do we truly know what a Chipotle is, how it is prepared or how it is supposed to taste? Although I consider myself someone who knows a lot about food, I must plead ignorance when it comes to the many variety of peppers, their preparation and so much more.
No better time than the present to change that.
…a Chipotle is a smoked Jalapeño. For many years the secret of these wonderful treats was a closely guarded secret. Only a few places made enough to sell and distribution was limited. But that has changed with the Chipotle’s growing popularity. It has become the secret ingredient in hundreds of recipes and the preferred source of “heat” in dishes from fish tacos to salsa to almost anything you would want to add a smoky pepper flavor too. 
People who lived [in the area surrounding Mexico City] before the Aztec civilization are thought to have invented it. The peppers may have been smoked to keep them from rotting, since the jalapeño is prone to quickly deteriorating when stored. 
A Chipotle is not a specific type of pepper, it is actually the final product after a fresh Jalapeño pepper is dried and smoked. Furthermore, the Chipotle pepper is available in many different varieties such as canned with adobo sauce (chipotles en adobo, available in the Mexican section of your grocery store), or in powder form. Also available, but not as common, are dried, whole Chipotle style peppers. The whole Chipotle allows for more customization than the canned variety and, along with the powder form, is considered more pure.  
The traditional way to make Chipotles is by starting with a hole in the ground. A pit is filled with wood, usually pecan, though oak, hickory or fruit woods work well. The smoking time is very long, about 48 hours so you don’t want a lot of strong smoke or you’ll end up with some way too smoky to eat. The smoke from the fire pit feeds into a separate chamber where the Jalapeño pods are sitting on a rack. This allows airflow without too much heat. You don’t want to cook the Jalapeños, just smoke them. 
The Chipotle does lose some of its heat during the smoking process, but its natural wood-smoke taste and spiciness are still apparent in the taste. The Chipotle adds so much flavor to many Mexican dishes, and these days, many American dishes as well. 
a little background on jalapeño peppers
The Jalapeño pepper, the basis of the Chipotle, is one of the most popular peppers and has a mild to moderate amount of heat. Jalapeños are typically picked and eaten when they are green. As the pepper ripens on the plant, the green turns to red, only making the Jalapeño fruitier and less grassy. The heat does not differ. 
Like most hot peppers, jalapeños vary in heat based on all kinds of factors, including the amount of sunlight, the pH level of the soil in which they grew, and others. Jalapeño peppers register between 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville heat units on the Scoville Scale. Pronunciation: holl-a-PAY-nyo 
After researching exactly what a Chipotle is, I now realize that my assumption that the Chipotle Cheddar would taste similar to Cabot Pepper-Jack Cheddar was completely incorrect. Completely incorrect. While they both have a dash of heat/kick involved, and are delicious, the Chipotle Cheddar has a subtle difference.
When I actually taste-tested the Cabot Chipotle, I hadn’t been completely educated on what a Chipotle is. Therefore, I was surprised when I not only experienced some heat (expected) but also some smokiness (unexpected). The smokiness, from the Chipotle, is what truly intrigued me and was the reason I continued to enjoy the cheese as much as I did.
While sampling the Chipotle Cheddar, I began to think about how it compared to a normal smoked cheese, such as smoked Swiss. Although, they both have some smokiness, they truly aren’t that similar. In my opinion, the Chipotle Cheddar has more nuance and flavor than a typical, plain, smoked cheese. A normal smoked cheese seems very one-note while the Chipotle Cheddar has great heat, smokiness and a wonderful texture on many levels.
The smokiness mixed with a little heat provided great balance with a little bit of unexpected joy. I give it my stamp of approval.
cabot chipotle cheddar grilled cheese
For this grilled cheese, I went with a fresh rye bread. And the entire grilled cheese was delicious. The cheese didn’t melt as completely as I would have liked, it could have been user error, but that didn’t hurt the flavor or texture of the grilled cheese. The bread was crunchy, the cheese was smokey and the grilled cheese was amazing. These simple grilled cheese sandwiches are anything but simple.