A chipotle pepper (pronounced chee-pote-lay), is a jalapeno pepper that has been smoked and dried, to intensify its flavour and heat. The pepper can be added to pretty much any insipid dish, to give it an exciting, fiery kick.
Chipotle peppers are made from red jalapenos, so if you grow your own peppers, you are at an advantage – simply pick the jalapenos you want to turn into chipotle peppers, and allow them to stay on the vine for long after you have harvested the other peppers. Once they turn red and mature, you can pick them and turn them into chipotle peppers – otherwise, you can simply scour your local food or farmer’s market for red jalapenos.
As they dry, the peppers will shrink, so roughly ten pounds of jalapenos peppers will yield just one pound of chipotle peppers. However, do not be alarmed; the heat in chipotle peppers is far more intense, so these are used sparingly and last longer – a single pepper can be used to flavour an entire dish.
- Red jalapeno peppers
- Smoking wood
- A traditional smoker or a barbecue grill with a lid
The first step to transforming your red jalapenos into chipotle peppers is to prep them for the smoking process. Wash each pepper thoroughly – leaving the stem on, or cutting it off, is purely optional, and will not affect the flavour of the final product in any way. If you are not big on too much heat, you can use a small paring knife to split the pepper down the middle, and scrape out the seeds. However, if the intense heat is what you are after, leave the peppers intact.
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Next, proceed to choose the wood you will be using to smoke the peppers. This should be a clean, neutral wood – anything that has too strong a scent will ruin your peppers, and infuse them with an odd, unwanted taste. Go for hickory, oak or pecan wood chips, and soak them in water before you begin, to keep them from burning, and to make sure they create the maximum amount of smoke.
Once the peppers and the wood chips have been prepped, it is time to prepare the vessel you will be using for smoking the peppers. You can use a traditional smoker for this purpose, and if you don’t have one, simply use a regular barbecue grill with a lid. Before you begin, clean it and make sure there is no leftover debris, or any remnants from the last time you used it.
If you are using the smoker, simply use the instructions to smoke your peppers. If you are using the grill, then make a small charcoal fire on the inside, in a corner of the grill. Spread the water-soaked wood chips over the glowing coals, and lay the jalapenos down on the opposite side of the grill – this way, they will not cook, and will instead be infused with the smoke. Make sure you keep the fire low (to prevent the peppers from actually cooking), and open the top vent of the grill. Check the peppers in the grill after every hour, to make sure the coal fire is still going, and then move the jalapeno peppers around. Smoke them in the grill for around 16 hours (best to do this outside).
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Whether you are using the smoker, or the grill, you will know your jalapenos have turned into chipotle peppers when they turn brown and crispy. If they still retain an element of moisture, you can finish them off in the oven, or in a food dehydrator. Wear gloves when handling these, as they tend to be pretty hot, and store them in a ziplock bag.
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