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By Mike Stines, Ph.B.
I went to the supermarket the other day to pick up some chipotle powder, an ingredient I use a lot in stews, salsas, marinades and rubs. It had been a while since I bought any… I was amazed at the cost! For a two-ounce container the price was $7.49; that’s $60 per pound. I checked the Penzeys website… Penzeys was offering a pound of ground chipotle for $41.30 and a one-pound bag of whole chipotles for $54.30. Another vendor I visit often – MexGrocer – was selling a two-ounce bag of chipotles for $2.75.
I thought there had to be a better way, so I did some research on making my own. Let’s do the math... two pounds (28) fresh jalapeños for $4… 20 pounds of pellets for smoking at $15… that would give me almost three ounces of chipotles… (It’s actually more expensive than the commercial powder, but the chipotles are fresh and you know what they’re made from and how they are smoked.) It seemed like a better solution to me!
I knew chipotles are smoked and dried jalapeño (Capsicum annuum) chiles produced in northern Mexico that have a nice smoky flavor and medium heat, but I wasn’t sure about the different varieties and exactly how to smoke them. I learned there are two types of chipotles: chile ahumado (considered the authentic chipotle) and morita. Chile ahumado has a strong smoky flavor and is sometimes called típico.
With a bevy of smokers, grills and various cooking
|Chiles on the Yoder, ready to smoke.
equipment in my side yard, I knew one of them would work for smoking jalapeños. I decided to use my Yoder YS640 pellet grill with hickory pellets and an A-Maze-N tube smoker filled with pecan pellets. Oak pellets could also be used in the smoker. (Pecan is the traditional wood for smoking jalapeños.)
Chipotles are usually made from very ripe red jalapeños that have been semi-dried on the plant—but in the middle of winter in New England the green grocer didn’t have any red jalapeños so I used fresh green jalapeños to make “Jalapeño chico.” You’ll need about ten pounds of jalapeños to make one pound of chipotles. (For this experiment I started with two pounds of fresh jalapeños trimmed in different ways and ended up with 2.8 ounces of chipotles.) Chipotles run from 5,000 to 10,000 units on the Scoville scale—it’s a chile in the high-low to low-medium heat range.
Here’s what I did to make chipotles:
Wash the jalapeños and dry them well.
Now you have a couple of options on how to proceed:
Leave the jalapeños whole or slice them lengthwise leaving the seeds and veins in the chile. Whole jalapeños will take longer to smoke. (You could also slice the jalapeños into rings.)
Leave the seeds and veins in the jalapeño or remove them… keeping the seeds and veins will give the finished chipotles a hotter flavor.
I did them three ways…
I cut the stem end off and sliced the chile in half and removed the seeds and veins.
I cut the tops off and cored out the seeds but left the chile whole.
And I left them untrimmed but cut a slit down the long side of the jalapeño.