how to make chipotles | smoked chipotle chili peppers | smoked red jalepenos at home -
A chipotle is a smoke dried jalapeno chili pepper. The jalapeno is allowed to ripen until it is deep red and then harvested for smoking. I have also smoked green jalapenos and I can't tell the diference as far as flavor is concerned. Green jalepenos have a thicker skin and will take longer to dry out. Smoking the jalapeno will dry out the pepper and impart the flavor of the wood used for smoking. You can make chipotles with either store bought or home grown jalapenos. Nothing is more satisfying than growing and smoking your own japapenos.
Getting Started - The first step really begins before the harvest. Assuming you are growing your own jalapenos you should scope out your potential chipotle jalapenos. You are looking for blemish free jalapenos to leave on the plant so they can ripen into red jalapenos. If you are using store bought, just make sure to look for blemish free red jalapenos with a firm stem. Loose stems are a sign that the jalapeno has been sitting around off the plant for a while. Chipotles are a labor of love kind of process so you probably want to wait until you have enough red jalapenos to make it worth it. I didn't have a lot of red so I tried a few green jalapenos and in the end, I couldn't tell the difference. The reason you are supposed to use red jalapenos is because the skin and meat of the jalapeno is supposed to be thinner thus drying out quicker. I ended up finishing the process in the oven so the green ones worked just fine for me.
The Prep - Start by washing and drying your peppers. Now you can decide how you want to cut your peppers. You can cut them in half and remove the stem, cut them in half and leave the stem or cut just the meat of the pepper leaving both halves attached to the stem. Now is the time to decide - seeds or no seeds. I tried a few each way just to see what would happen. My prefered method was cut in half with stem removed, but leave the seeds intact.
The DIY Smoker - I don't have a Weber Smokey Mountain so I had to improvise. Several sites on the web show how to smoke using a trash can smoker with hot plate. I used this as the basis for my setup. The goal is to have very low heat and maximum smoke. I have had an electric skillet sitting in my kitchen never getting any use... now it comes in handy. Begin by soaking your woodchips of choice in water. I used mesquite because it was easy to find, but you can use fruit wood, hickory, pecan, etc... Obviously the wood smoke will flavor the chipotles so some experimentation is neccesary. Now it's time to fire up the hot plate. I put mine in my Weber gas grill so that if something went wrong, it would be somewhat contained. I turned the hot plate to it's maximum for getting the smoke going. Add the soaked woodchips to the electric skillet and in about 15 minutes you should have smoke. Now that you have smoke position the chipotles above the skillet. Because my hot plate was inside of my Weber gas grill, I just put the cut jalapenos on the warming rack inside the lid of the gas grill. When I closed the lid on the grill the smoking electric skillet was below the soon to be chipotles.
The Waiting - Now it is time to wait, but you can't really leave because the temperature needs to be monitored. An electronic temperature probe would be ideal, but I don't have one so I just used the temperature gauge on the lid of the gas grill. I adjusted the temperature on the hot plate to smoke the jalapenos at the correct temperature. To make chipotles you want smoke to dry the jalapenos, but you don't want to cook them. With my hot plate almost full blast the gas grill temperature gauge was reading 160 degrees. You don't want to exceed 200 degrees. I let the jalapenos smoke for about 12 hours. I changed the wood chips once half way through the process. Most people recommend changing every hour or two, but 6 hours worked for me. After the 12 hours of smoking I had something that resembled chipotles, but with a 100% humidity outside I wasn't sure if they were completly dried. I put the in the oven with the temperature set to 170 degrees which was the lowest it would go. I also cracked the door about a 1/4" so that moisture could escape. I let the chipotles dry in the oven for about 6 hours.
The Result - The end result was worth all of the trouble. I used a few of the chipotles in a salsa, ground a few for fish tacos, and shared some with family. You can easily rehydrate the chipotles for use in salsas and other recipes. Just add some almost boiling water to a bowl with the chipotles and in about 20 minutes the chipotles are nice and moist for use in recipes that call for fresh chipotles. You can also use a spice/coffee grinder to grind the chipotles. You can spice up recipes by using the chipotle powder anywhere chili powder is called for.
Let me know how your chipotles come out...