Market Inspiration for Adobo Sauce

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Category : Bellingham, Farmers' Markets, Sauces and Dips

Adobo SauceMy visit to the Bellingham Farmers Market last Saturday was the first since the Market was rearranged into its winter configuration. It was like exploring a new Market, except for the delight of finding familiar faces in unfamiliar places. There were a few vendors set up along the sidewalk, and a small handful of the “fast food” vendors on the other side, but most remaining vendors had moved in under the main shelter across from Boundary Bay Brewery. It was nice to see everyone looking relaxed and happy as the busy season begins to wind down on their farms.

Besides picking up our weekly egg CSA from Red Barn Lavender, I didn’t really have a shopping list on this particular day. Instead I was looking for inspiration, something a little unexpected or surprising, that I could turn into a new locavore dish using other autumn ingredients.

A surprising variety of produce was still available. Several fall fruit vendors were on hand (Cloud Mountain, BelleWood Acres, etc.), local honey and cheese were selling well, and vegetables included far more than you would expect for the season. I stopped by the Nooksack 9 booth and talked with farmer Joshua Craft. He showed me some beautiful root vegetables he’d harvested, and while they looked perfect and delicious, they just didn’t touch off a creative spark for me.

Cascadia Mushrooms was nearby and I eyed their lion’s mane mushrooms (my favorite for cooking) and oyster mushrooms (my favorite for being just plain beautiful). I love their mushrooms, but had worked with these varieties before so the subject didn’t feel new enough to call “inspiring.”

Around the corner I stopped to look at the incredible daikon radishes offered by Evergreen Station from Ferndale. Long, perfectly white, and lovely, I thought these might be a possibility, so purchased some to take home. I still wasn’t sure, though, so kept looking.

Next stop was Alm Hill Gardens. I took a moment to ask how this year’s growing season had been for them. While everything had started much later than usual, they said overall it had been a good season. They still had cauliflower, brussels sprouts, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, several kinds of squash (including the thin-skinned, delectable delicata variety), and an amazing array of other produce at their stand. Again, I could make many tasty meals from their selection, but I still wasn’t getting the spark.

Finally I stopped at Rabbit Field Farm’s new Market quarters. At last I found the inspirational ingredient I’d been looking for! Farmer Roslyn McNicholl had smoked some of her long cayenne peppers! Some had been smoked with cherry and hickory wood, and another batch was smoked with apple and alder wood. The enticing, smoky aromas filled the near vicinity, and my imagination began to play with possibilities for how to cook with these peppers. I asked Roslyn which flavor she preferred, but she said she couldn’t decide so I took some of each. I also asked how hot the peppers were. She said that surprisingly the smoke seemed to have tamed much of the spicy heat of the cayenne. Happy with this discovery, I headed home.

Before starting to cook, I tasted a little of each smoked flavor. I personally liked the apple-alder version best, though the cherry-hickory was delicious, too. The apple-alder had a slightly sweet undertone, I thought, while the cherry-hickory seemed a touch harsher. The difference was fairly subtle, though, and in the recipe below, I mixed both flavors together.

As Roslyn had said, the spiciness definitely seem toned down from the fresh cayenne I’d bought earlier in the season. However, I wasn’t sure what would happen when they were heated and reconstituted, so I decided to make a hot sauce with them. That way I could adjust the amount of sauce added to other dishes depending on how hot the sauce turned out. I was glad I took that approach, because a fair amount of the heat did return during cooking. It was still nothing like fresh cayenne, though.

Traditionally, adobo sauce is made with smoked jalapeno peppers (which are also called chipotle peppers). However, some sources say any smoked chile pepper can be called chipotle. You may or may not consider this a true adobo sauce, but I used both the smoked long cayenne peppers and some unsmoked jalapeno peppers in the hot sauce recipe below, and the resulting flavor was amazing!

Watch for future recipes incorporating this sauce, both here and on my blog (whatcomlocavore.com). In the meantime, be sure to visit Rabbit Fields at the Bellingham Farmers Market next Saturday and pick up some of these savory smoked peppers before I get there and take the rest all for myself!


Adobo Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Smoked long cayenne peppers were the inspiration for this spicy hot sauce.
Recipe type: Sauce
Serves: 1 cup
  • 4 smoked long cayenne peppers, broken into pieces (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson)
  • 2 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (frozen from friend's garden, Lummi Island
  • ½ cup onion, diced (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
  • 5 tbsp apple cider vinegar (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
  • 2 clove garlic, sliced (Half Acre Farm, Ferndale)
  • 2 dried tomatoes (about ½ cup) (home-dehydrated from Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
  • ½ tsp honey (Guilmette's Busy Bees, Bellingham)
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ tsp dried basil (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a full boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer gently for about an hour, until the pepper pieces have softened and the sauce has been reduced to about 1 cup.
  3. Use a stick blender (or pour into a regular blender) to finely chop ingredients into a thick texture.
Put into an airtight container. Adobo Sauce will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, or you can freeze it until needed.

Serving Suggestions:

Use in other recipes, such as Spicy Tomato Soup or Smokey Beef Burgers.

Food Sources:

BelleWood Acres, 231 Ten Mile Rd., Lynden
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad and Chestnut, Bellingham
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. or 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham
Full Bloom Farm, Centerview and Tuttle, Lummi Island
Friend’s garden, Lummi Island
Half Acre Farm U-pick at Boxx Berry Farm, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham

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Comments (2)

Nice post! I feel as though I was prowling the stalls right along with you, “searching for that spark.” I love that kind of shopping.

Bellingham Farmers Market photographer Cynthia St. Clair took a beautiful photo of the smoked peppers from Rabbit Fields Farm which inspired this recipe and my Spicy Tomato Soup, which uses this Adobo Sauce. Check it out: