Smoking and drying red jalapeno chiles turns them into chipotles - a wonderful ingredient used in Mexican cooking to add spicy heat and a lovely smoky depth of flavour.
You can buy bottles and jars of chipotle sauces in most UK supermarkets and you might even find whole chipotles in the specialist ingredients sections. However, when I was able to get my hands on a large amount of jalapenos recently, I thought I'd have a go at turning them into chipotles.
Read on to see how I made the chipotle chiles in a barbecue.
This was my first attempt at making my own chipotle chiles - the result was pretty good but there are changes I would make next time that I think would improve them enormously. I'll cover these after I have described the method.
The trick with making chipotles is to slowly dry and smoke the red jalapenos without cooking or burning them. As you can see from the picture above I made a small charcoal fire on one side of my barbecue grill and, once it had started, put regular handfuls of soaked apple wood chips on the coals to make smoke.
The chillies, that had been washed, dried and pricked with a knife were placed on a raised rack so that the smoke could flow around them. The lid was closed on the barbecue and a towel placed over it so that there was only air coming in from the bottom and smoke escaping from a slight gap in the towel on the back right hand side - the idea was to get an airflow going over the coals and then over the jalapenos to get a good smoke going.
After 6 hours of smoking, with regular top ups of charcoal and wood chips, the chiles had dried and darkened considerably. As night was falling I brought the chiles inside and finished the drying process in a food dehydrator. I could have finished the process in the barbie but the dehydrator was more convenient for me.
The result can be seen in the picture below.
So, are these chipotles? Personally, I would say no. They are too lightly smoked and I would expect the colour to be darker - blacky brown. They are not wasted though - I have tried one crumbled into a pork chile I was making and it definitely lifted the flavour.
Improvements for next time
If I try this method again I'll top up the wood chips more often to make extra smoke and maybe run the coals hotter to speed up the drying.
I also had a lot of green jalapenos and I thought I would try smoking them using a different method. The results were much better - they are definitely green chipotles. Read how to make your own chipotles in a bullet smoker.