Chili powder is really an easy to make spice blend, and not just ground up chilies. Most people don’t really think about making it. They just go to the store and buy it. But, why spend money on something you can make at home? It’s soooo easy, and the best thing is that you can come up with your own blend, to suit your palate and that of your family. Think about it; you could come up with two or three different types of chili powder, all with a different accent, and culinary purpose. Now, there’s food for thought. . .
My experimentation with making chili powder happened as a result of need. Yes, necessity is indeed the mother of invention! You see, I wasn’t planning on creating my own chili powder blend, but fate would have it otherwise. It just so happened that on one cold winter Saturday, a few months back, I decided to make chili. Well, as I started pulling out all the ingredients I would need, I soon discovered that, GASP!!! I only had about 1/4 tsp. of chili powder left. Well, that was an unexpected kink in my plans.
Going to the store was out of the question. It was way too cold. Hmmm… what to do? Well, I looked at the chili powder jar, read the ingredients on the label, and soon realized that I had all the necessary spices to make my own. It was that simple. My culinary experience was saved!
So, how can you make your own chili powder, and will it taste as good? It will taste GREAT provided you use good quality spices. It’s so easy. If you have paprika, cayenne, salt, oregano, thyme and cumin you are in business. It’s that simple. The proportions are really up to you, however, your dominating spice should be paprika, followed by cumin. For my blend I actually chose a combination of smoked and sweet paprika. The cayenne you can adjust to suit your heat preference. Really just play around with the proportions to create the balance that is right for you. I can tell you this, I am making my own chili powder blend from now on.
Chili is kind of a multicultural concoction, and this is why: oregano and thyme, both present in chili powder are herbs native to the Mediterranean. Black pepper originates from India, paprika from the New World, and cumin from Iran and the Mediterranean. Actually, cumin dates back to ancient Sumeria, but that is the subject of another post. By the way, in the post I have used nutmeg. I think using allspice or cinnamon instead might give it a nice depth too. Try it out. Play. Experiment.
And here’s the multicultural twist: Chili powder was actually invented in the American Southwest by a German immigrant. Really, a German immigrant invented chili powder? Crazy, huh? Yes, a guy by the name of William Gebhardt invented chili powder. He came with his parents from Germany to settle in the town of New Braunfels, TX.
In 1892 he opened a café where he served foods typical of the Southwest, as well as foods typical of his native Germany. He started playing around with spices that would show off the flavors of the American Southwest. It is this spice blend that would become chili powder. The Gebhardt’s brand is still sold today throughout the US. In 1908 he published what is probably the first book on Mexican Cooking. William Gebhardt is most likely responsible for making Mexican cuisine part of the mainstream American culture.
To make storage and pouring of this spice blend easier, I discovered that my friends at reCAP, that totally awesome local Erie, Pennsylvania company have come up with another perfectly practical product: The Flip Cap! This nifty jar cap will fit your Mason jars and comes with two grate inserts that will make dispensing your spices a piece of cake. The inserts have different size holes which makes them ideal for herbs that have larger flakes (oregano, thyme, tarragon) or spices that are finer (powder form). You can also leave the grate out and it is perfect for spooning out spices as in the photo above. I LOVE this product.
Let me know if you get around to making your own blend. I would love to hear from you.
DIY Chili Powder Blend
- Place all ingredients in a glass jar and shake to combine everything.
- Cap it and store in a cool dry place.