FAQ OF THE INTERNET BBQ LIST
[How do you smoke chiles to make chipotles?]
Chipotles (chi pote lays) are a Mexican specialty, made by smoking red Jalapeno peppers over mesquite wood. It's very easy to smoke chile peppers. I use an electric water smoker but any smoker will work. I pick the red chiles the morning I am going to smoke them. You can smoke just about any kind of chile, but to make authentic chipotles, use only Jalapenos. I use, in addition to Jalapenos, Jalapas and Fresnos. Use red peppers only, as the yellow, orange and green ones become a dirty color when smoked.
I wash the peppers and cut the tops off. I make one slit in the pepper from top to bottom and remove the seeds and membrane with a melon-baller. Wear gloves to do this or you will be hurting in a few hours. I like to leave the two halves attached and open the pepper up, as this makes each piece bigger and less likely to fall through the bars of the grill.
Start your smoker about an hour before you're ready to put on the peppers and get it up to temperature,--180-200F. I put 1-2 liters of water in the pan of my smoker and then cover the pan with aluminum foil and jab a few fork holes in it to let out the steam. The foil will catch any peppers that fall through the grill rather than them getting a bath. I use a third rack in my smoker and put it right on top of the water pan. Put the peppers on the grills cross-wise so there is less chance of them falling through the bars. The first few times I smoked peppers, I was careful to place them only one pepper thick on the grills. Now I just pile them on about 2 inches thick on each rack. They all get smoked fine. Close the lid and add smoking wood chips or chunks. I smoke mine for about 4 hours, until they turn a smoky dark color. You want to avoid burning the peppers. In my smoker, the outside perimeter of the round grills gets the hottest. So at about every hour, I take the grills out and rearrange the peppers, exchanging the darker ones from the rim with the less smoked ones in the middle. You will have to experiment with your smoker.
The next step is to dry the smoked peppers. A dehydrator would be the best piece of equipment for this, but since I don't have one, I use my gas oven. I set the temperature at 150F and it takes 8-12 hours to get the peppers dry and crispy. They are dry when you can crush them with you hand. When they are dry, I take about half of them and grind them in a small coffee grinder to a powder. The other half I leave unground and use them in adobo and barbecue sauces. Adding a few chipotle chiles to your favorite barbecue sauce gives it real nice kick. The powder is great sprinkled on food, in soups and on cream cheese spread on a cracker.
Check out the Chile-Heads recipe digest for more information on making chipotles and using them in recipes and adobo sauces. Click here