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Garden Lifestyle

Smoking Chile Peppers

Chipotle peppers are smoke-dried jalapeno peppers.

  • Just-harvested chile pepper bounty.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Master Naturalists harvesting chile peppers at the Heritage Herb Garden, Ozark Folk Center.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Master Naturalist, Suzanne, with a bowl full of habaneros.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Volunteer Master Naturalists along with OFC gardener, Jess Crow, display pepper bounty.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Master Naturalist chair, Nell Doyle, and head gardener at OFC, Tina Wilcox, taking charge of the MN work force.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Lots of chile peppers--flavored from mild to wild--for preserving.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • These 'Yellow Trinidad Scorpion' chile peppers are smokin' hot--without being put over fire--about 2,000,000 SHU!
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Smoker used for smoking the chile peppers.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Red hot wood charcoal in charcoal chimney. I do not use briquets or lighter fluid when smoking or grilling.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Chile peppers in smoker.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Chipotle peppers are smoke-dried jalapeno peppers. The latter are thick-walled and do not dry well, so they have been smoked-dried for centuries. They are often preserved in a popular sauce, Chipotles en Adobo, which is tomato and vinegar-based.

Recently, when I was in Arkansas, there was an abundance of chile peppers that we harvested just before the frost at the Ozark Folk Center. We had a volunteer work day all over the park with about 30 Master Naturalists helping to weed, take out weed trees, prune and do general end-of-season garden cleanup. Whenever this group shows up in their orange sweatshirts–you know that plenty of work is going to get done! A hardcore group of them generously volunteer to work in the OFC gardens two morning a month–kudos to them!

The group that I was working with picked all of the chiles peppers from the display bed in the Heritage Herb Garden and then we pulled out the plants and cleaned up the raised beds so they’d be ready for spring planting. Everyone got to take some of the bounty home.

I decided to try smoking an assortment of chile peppers in my friend’s smoker and make a version of chiles en adobo. Having never really used a smoker before, we had to read the directions to the smoker and figure out how to use it. I think most smokers work on the same premise with the hot fire (charcoal) at the bottom (or sometimes on the side) to which small pieces of wood or wood chips, which have been soaked in water, are added to create the smoke. Different types of wood are used for different flavors: hickory, cherry, apple, mesquite, etc.

The chiles are placed on a grate above or alongside the heat; the fire should be low enough to smoke and not flame. Cover the chiles and check every 30 minutes or so, adding more charcoal or wood as needed–you can mist with water to keep the flames down.

Fortunately, we also had our friend, Kathleen Connole’s instructions for smoking chiles and making an adobo sauce. The recipe first appeared in Capsicum, Herb of the Year 2016, published by the International Herb Association and Kathleen has given me permission to publish her recipe here.

Kathleen says that “The peppers are done when tender, skins wrinkle and easily slip off. Time depends upon the type and size of peppers–approximately 1 to 2 hours for jalapenos and up to 4 hours for sweet red bells.”

Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove their stems and skins and pack them in clean glass jars. They can be stored in fridge for a few weeks or frozen, or used to make Chiles en Adobo. Click link for recipe. /item/128511/smoked-chiles-en-adobo

 

 

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