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Packaged Mexican Ingredients


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Because we cannot get a lot of fresh Hispanic type ingredients in Canada, we can end up buying a number of ingredients which are as noted: boxed, bottled, canned, plastic-containered and packaged. Oh, and dried and frozen...

And my generous friend from NJ brought me a fair selection of said from NJ last summer.

Right now I am looking at a bottle of Goya Sofrito, and Rogelio Bueno both Adobo and Pipian, both in glasses. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Do Mexican cooks use a lot of pre-packaged stuff the way North Americans increasingly do? Obviously Mexican cooks in North America must. Are there any good products? Brands to look for if you must buy pre-packaged? Brands to avoid?

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Are there any good products? Brands to look for if you must buy pre-packaged?

I've heard that all of the Rancho Gordo products are pretty good.

:biggrin:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Good idea for a thread, Darienne!

I like the La Morena brand Chipotles in Adobo but to be honest I have never tried any of the others (Embasa, Herdez, San Marcos, etc). Are they all pretty much the same or is there a specific brand better than most. A few may have one or two additional spices. I just buy it becuase I like the flavor and it has a great can graphic!

Ditto Jaymes Rancho Gordo recommendation. They have great packaging graphic too but more importantly a great product. :smile:

"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali
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As for Rancho Gordo and beans...you'd pretty much have to package beans. I was speaking more of stuff that you would rather get unpackaged.

Meant to mention the brand El Paso. It's the most common brand of 'Mexican' foods where I live. And so incredibly expensive you can't believe it. Never buy the stuff...so I can't comment on it.

I brought home with me from Utah Herdez tomatillos and Hatch chiles but have nothing to compare them with. Since then a major Canadian grocery chain, Sobey's, has started to carry poblanos and I was able to buy fresh tomatillos in Toronto. However, we seldom get to Toronto and less often to the very heart of the city where Kensington Market is. Going on Saturday tho...

I must say that canned chiles and canned tomatillos are about the same as canned asparagus vs fresh...

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Darienne... as of 20 years ago packaged products were rarely used in Mexico with some exceptions like tomato paste, boxed "consommé" etc., But since NAFTA and the "Western" economic transformation taking place (more & more dual income families working in Corporations or formal employment)... packaged products are making a major inroads (especially Middle Class families are not passing down cooking skills from generation to generation).

Paradoxically (or probably expectedly in an economy in transition to the "First World")... the packaged products marketed to the middle class are actually of lower gastronomic quality (but with much nicer packaging, marketing & industrial "beauty") than the artisinal, unbranded packaged foods (Mole pastes, cooking sauces, Recaudos / Sofritos, cooked foods) sold (mostly) to the poorer people who shop in the traditional street markets & mercados.

Unfortunately most of what gets exported to North America (by the big food distributors) is the "first world" mass produced stuff... stuff by La Costena, Herdez, La Morenita, El Mexicano etc., etc.,

Anything you find at the Mexican markets that is unbranded... THAT is what you should buy... I don't know what makes its way to Canada but in Northern California (and to some degree in Hawaii) it is possible to find high quality artisinal cheese, cream, mole paste etc.,

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Darienne,

I haven't used the Rogelio Bueno adobo or pipian, but I have used their mole sauce in a jar and like it better than the Doña Maria stuff in a jar. You can build it up a bit by sauteing some pulverized tomato in some oil before adding the jarred sauce and stock. You may need to adjust the seasoning a bit (think sugar) but you probably won't have to add salt.

Herdez is in wide distribution in Mexico and is actually quite good for a canned or jarred salsa. I've used and like Embassa, La Morena and a brand I think is called La Costera.

What you actually see quite a bit of in Mexico is aseptic packaging. I've seen and purchased tomatoes this way as are many (if not most) juices.

Convenience goods are definitely used, but how extensively is going to depend upon what's on the menu and how much time the cook has that day to prepare the meal. Rather than a jarred mole, adobo or pipian, cooks in Mexico are going to be more likely to have/use a paste purchased at the market. Many of adobo and mole pastes are quite good and will keep for (it seems) eons and can be ready in about 20 minutes, and there are many uses for the sauce other than to just coat a piece of protein. It's also not unusual to see people duck into a a shop on their way home and pick up a kilo or 2 of carnitas, rotisserie chickens, tortillas, or other bulk items.

One thing that is almost always on every shelf in Mexico is Knorr-Suisse (Knor-Swiss) caldo de pollo, which is seasoned chicken boullion. It comes in the usual little cubes on up to 5# plastic tubs. A little goes a long way, but when a dish or stock is a little flat, adding a little caldo de pollo will perk it right up.

Seasoning salt for fruit is also pretty universal. Tajín is probably the best known brand and is also available in some parts of the U.S. It consists of salt, dehydrated lime juice and ground chile. Sprinkled on fruit and raw vegetables it's great. I like it on eggs and popcorn as well. Use it whereever you need a little heat, a little salt and a little acid bite.

Hot sauces such as Valentina, Cholula, Tapatio, La Bufalo, El Yucateco and a lot of locally produced and regional sauces are common in homes and in restaurants.

Gelatin (in crazy flavors), fideos/pasta, and mayo (with added lime juice)are common pantry items.

The shelf stable pantry items I almost always have at home include:

- a pretty wide selection of dried chiles

- canela

- piloncillo

- mexican chocolate

- sal de grano (basically coarse sea salt)

- jamaica

- mole pastes

- dried avocado leaves

- tamarind pods

- Mexican vanilla pods

- pozole corn (dried)

- achiote paste

- a variety of dried bean, and I agree with everyone else, Rancho Gordo beans are pretty fabulous

- Tequila

- Mescal

I am blessed with 3 really good Mexican markets within 15 minutes of my house, so I can pretty much get whatever else I need.

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Anything you find at the Mexican markets that is unbranded... THAT is what you should buy... I don't know what makes its way to Canada but in Northern California (and to some degree in Hawaii) it is possible to find high quality artisinal cheese, cream, mole paste etc.,

It's still an unknown quantity to me, but I suspect that it's not much. The fresh and refrigerated sections in Perola's didn't have much. Most of the store was canned, packaged, etc, etc.

According to the City of Toronto (googled) stats: the Latin American population is 64,860 or 2.6 per cent. Don't know if that is Toronto only or the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Haven't done the math. BUt stil, not a lot of Hispanics of any kind. So you wouldn't expect to find a lot of Hispanic type foods say compared to Chinese ingredients. Even in my small city, 60,000, we have three or four Asian markets. Nothing Hispanic at all.

Thanks for all the information. You are really a big help to me.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Meant to mention the brand El Paso. It's the most common brand of 'Mexican' foods where I live. And so incredibly expensive you can't believe it. Never buy the stuff...so I can't comment on it.

Really? In the States El Paso is a solid but unremarkable brand of prepared Mexican products. I always liked their refried beans but the other stuff was kind of "meh".

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Darienne,

This one's for you .

Fany Gerson, author of My Sweet Mexico talks a little about Mole Poblano, but you get to see a lot of ingredients in a (really) quick market tour.

Thanks for the thought Kalypso, but I can't run the videos from this website. Some American videos cannot be run in Canada.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Is it worthwhile to buy dried epazote? That's the only way I can get it. Thanks.

In absence of fresh... yes the dried is worth it. Buy from a reputable source that knows what they are selling... sometimes the stuff in the Mexican markets is not labeled adequately so you don't if you are buying dried epazote for culinary purposes or for medicinal tea.... although it isn't that hard to distinguish it... if its darkish browns with lots of stems it is for tea.. if its mostly green and obviously leaf shaped then it is the culinary one.

The dried has two main uses... to boil in a pot of beans, or to aromatize tomato based sauces or soups... in either case you will want to enclose it in cheese cloth or herb / spice pouch and let simmer in the liquid... it will certainly impart a nice herbal, complex dimension of flavor. The dried is actually more nuanced than the fresh, it doesn't have the brash grassiness, bitterness, gasoline like pungency... and might be an easier introduction to the flavor. If you like it though... some day you will get a chance of eating a simple quesadilla with a few tender leaves fused into the cheese... or chopped over some heirloom tomatoes & roasted jalapenos etc.,

In short... yes it is generally worth buying dried.

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In absence of fresh... yes the dried is worth it. Buy from a reputable source that knows what they are selling...

I have exactly one source to buy it from. :raz: But thanks for all the information, as usual.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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In absence of fresh... yes the dried is worth it. Buy from a reputable source that knows what they are selling...

I have exactly one source to buy it from. :raz: But thanks for all the information, as usual.

I don't go for the dried so much but desperate times require dried epazote.

If you can get seeds you can grow it and it's a weed.

I've found it by our train tracks. and it survives freezing winters. Or it comes back from bolted seeds.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

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In absence of fresh... yes the dried is worth it. Buy from a reputable source that knows what they are selling...

I have exactly one source to buy it from. :raz: But thanks for all the information, as usual.

I don't go for the dried so much but desperate times require dried epazote.

If you can get seeds you can grow it and it's a weed.

I've found it by our train tracks. and it survives freezing winters. Or it comes back from bolted seeds.

I've grown epazote from seed, although it is usually available in the local Mexican markets.

Some of the plants are not as vigorous as others. My best results have been from this vendor.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I've grown epazote from seed, although it is usually available in the local Mexican markets.

Some of the plants are not as vigorous as others. My best results have been from this vendor.

We have a very good Ontario herb and vegetable source, Richter's, which could be worked into our visit to Toronto this Saturday. I don't have a current catalog (I'm not very good at online catalogs...you can't flip through them) but I've already found Epazote, Tomatillos, Anaheims (they don't carry Poblanos) and other chiles.

A small garden is in order. I have a black thumb but last summer I did grow some tomatoes, Habaneros, Jalapenos and a few other things.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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If you can grow tomatoes, then you can grow tomatillos! We had a bumper crop last year in our little greenhouse in BC. I made salsa verde for canning, then froze some tomatillos for "nearly fresh" salsa in the winter.

Karen Dar Woon

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Darienne

Richters does carry Poblano seeds, and usually has the plants as well (in season). They're (mis)labelled as Ancho.

I have a feeling I'm going to have alot of epazote in my backyard this summer. I planted some last year in a planter. There were a few small terra cotta pots nearby that I brought in for the winter. I noticed one day something sprouting, and the pot had dozens of seedlings growing. I put them next to my fish tank, and they've survived quite well.

Hope that helps,

Thanks,

Brian

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Darienne

Richters does carry Poblano seeds, and usually has the plants as well (in season). They're (mis)labelled as Ancho.

I have a feeling I'm going to have alot of epazote in my backyard this summer. I planted some last year in a planter. There were a few small terra cotta pots nearby that I brought in for the winter. I noticed one day something sprouting, and the pot had dozens of seedlings growing. I put them next to my fish tank, and they've survived quite well.

Hope that helps,

Thanks,

Brian

Same chile... Ancho is the dried form of Poblano... I wonder if most of their clients buy grow them primarily for drying.

BTW... a dish that doesn't get prepared North of the Border very often is stuffed Anchos...very, very delicious... rehydrated with various brine / pickle solutions... stuffed with every thing from grilled Arrachera steak & Guacamole (in Nuevo Leon) to Chorizo-Potato hash or "Milpa" vegetables (calabacita, green beans etc.,) en Escabeche

EDIT... when I get back to California... I am going to come up with a dish that combines stuffed Anchos with the Banana vinegar sold by Rancho Gordo

Edited by EatNopales (log)
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Great thread Darienne! I have a question for the experts about canned or jarred tomatillos. I can get fresh tomatillos pretty regularly here, and have made salsa with them before, but I confess to being lazy and curious as to whether I can used canned since I am cooking them for my salsa. I have been making the tomatillo salsa out of Rick Bayless's "Salsas that Cook" and I'd like to do a "pantry version" with canned tomatillos and jalepenos. Good idea or don't even bother?

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Great thread Darienne! I have a question for the experts about canned or jarred tomatillos. I can get fresh tomatillos pretty regularly here, and have made salsa with them before, but I confess to being lazy and curious as to whether I can used canned since I am cooking them for my salsa. I have been making the tomatillo salsa out of Rick Bayless's "Salsas that Cook" and I'd like to do a "pantry version" with canned tomatillos and jalepenos. Good idea or don't even bother?

I think you should do it at least once so that you can taste the difference. OTOH... all canned food liners have BPA & acidic foods release more of the BPA... so part of me cant condone putting carcinogens in your body even for a cooking experiment.

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Great thread Darienne! I have a question for the experts about canned or jarred tomatillos. I can get fresh tomatillos pretty regularly here, and have made salsa with them before, but I confess to being lazy and curious as to whether I can used canned since I am cooking them for my salsa. I have been making the tomatillo salsa out of Rick Bayless's "Salsas that Cook" and I'd like to do a "pantry version" with canned tomatillos and jalepenos. Good idea or don't even bother?

I think you should do it at least once so that you can taste the difference. OTOH... all canned food liners have BPA & acidic foods release more of the BPA... so part of me cant condone putting carcinogens in your body even for a cooking experiment.

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