This step-by-step guide to smoking chipotle peppers allows you to preserve your jalapeño harvest and gives you a great way to add new flavor to your dishes. CAUTION: PEPPERS CONTAIN CAPSAICIN, WHICH MAY CAUSE A CHEMICAL INTERACTION AND IRRITATE YOUR SKIN AND EYES!! Based on painful experience, I highly recommend that you purchase some disposable food handling gloves before starting this smoking adventure.
Pecan Wood Chunks or ChipsApple, hickory, and oak work well also
charcoalto help keep wood smoke going
Carefully wash the jalapeños, and double-check them for blemishes and soft spots.
You can smoke the jalapeños just as they are with the stems, seeds, and membranes intact but you can reduce the overall drying time, by cutting off the tops, which allows the smoke to get inside and out of the jalapeños, absorbing more smoke flavor.
Prepare for a long smoke and start the fire, using a mixture of charcoal and wet and dry wood chunks or chips.
Place the jalapeños on the rack in a single layer leaving some space between each jalapeño. If you are using smaller chipotles, you may want to use a grilling tray, larger jalapeños should be just fine. After you place the jalapeños on the rack close the lid. Keep a close eye on the fire and try to keep the temperature consistent at about 180 degrees F.
Unless you have hot spots, you don't have to move jalapeños around or rotate them. In fact, it is best if you move the jalapeños as little as possible. The jalapeños will start to dry and turn black and become leathery when smoked. The chipotles are done when they are completely dried when they are brittle, very lightweight and a rich dark color.
Reduce the overall drying time, by cutting off the tops, which allows the smoke to get inside and out of the jalapeñosRun Out of Time? Don’t worry!Don’t be discouraged if your chipotles don’t turn out the first time. Smoke drying peppers is an art form. There are many variables when smoking chipotles and sometimes it can take up to 48 hours to completely dry out a batch of jalapeños. Very few people have that amount of time to smoke chipotles for that amount of time. Chipotles will lose their flavor and could possibly spoil if they are not completely dry. At this point, they can be refrigerated or frozen to help preserve them.If you run out of time before the chipotles are completely dried, you can finish them off in the oven on the lowest temperature setting. A baking rack is best, but if the chipotles are too small you may have to use a grilling basket. If you don’t have one, then use a sheet pan as the last resort. The pan will hinder the drying process.Storing Chipotle PeppersIt’s important to know that smoked chipotles still have some moisture content even though they have been dried, but smoked chipotles have an indefinite shelf life if stored properly. It’s hard to say how long they will remain fresh. Usually, dried chilies can remain fresh for up to 100 to almost 200 days before they start to lose their flavor, but there is no guarantee.You can store the dried chipotles inside a mason jar with a lid in a cool, dry place. You can also try plastic bags, but smoked chipotles are very potent and are very smoky. The smoke smell may seep through plastic bags into your cabinet.Freezing the chipotles is probably the best method for storing your chipotles. Freezing will slow down decomposition and almost guarantee they keep their freshness, but due to the moisture content, they chipotles must be used immediately after they are defrosted because they are vulnerable to mold. It’s also worth mentioning that if you defrost them to make powders you may find that they clump. The clumps do not affect the flavor and can be broken up. It may be best to make powders before freezing to preserve integrity.Using Chipotle PeppersUse chipotles in anything you want to have a smoky flavor without even having to light the grill. Chipotles come in handy when the weather outside it too bad to light the grill, especially on winter days.One of the easiest ways to use smoked chipotles is to grind the chipotles up into a fine powder. To make chili powder, all you need is a coffee grinder. I use an expensive Mr. Coffee Electric Coffee Grinder that sells on Amazon for around $15.00. It also grinds black peppercorns beautifully!My personal favorite way to use chipotles is to rehydrate chipotles by placing them in very warm water for thirty minutes to one hour. This makes it easier to cut up and add them to your favorite recipes. Imagine how good some chipotles would be diced up and added to this Classic Barbecue Sauce. YUM!
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