So I mentioned in my previous post that I can’t find canned Chipotle in Adobo sauce in Northern Cyprus. Well I actually can’t find ANY form of Chipotle chilli here, in the UK I used to buy packs of them from Tesco, re hydrate one or two and chop them up to use in anything I wanted to taste smoky- Chilli Con Carne, Fajitas, Tinga de Pollo etc. If you do a search for Mexican recipes one of the above forms of the Chilli is needed in a lot of them so they are quite vital if you want to create that taste.
What is a Chipotle? Pronounced chi- poht- lay it is a smoke dried Jalapeño chilli typically used in Mexican cuisine. Farmers pick some of their crop of Jalapeños when they are still ‘unripe’ and these green ones are sent to fill the demand for the mildly spiced green chillies we encounter stuffed or topping pizza.
The rest of the chillies are left on the plants as long as possible till they are deep red & beginning to dry out. Traditionally (The Aztecs purportedly began smoke drying chillies to increase their longevity, Jalapeños being fleshy & thick walled they were liable to rot if they were dried in the normal fashion.) they would be taken to underground smoking chambers & left for days to slowly dry out whilst taking on the earthy smokiness of the burned wood. In this day & age there are different methods involving cold smokers, hot smokers & even liquid smoke added to create a false smoke dried taste. In their dried form they look brown & wrinkled but in the Adobo sauce they are pliant & red.
I did some Googling & toyed with the idea of buying a fish smoker to use over the Barbeque to make my own Chipotle but then I hit a snag, never having smoked anything before I wasn’t sure exactly how to smoke something. After more (much more) Googling I realised that without a local B&Q to go and buy some handy ‘wood briquettes’ and unwilling to chop a few branches off a neighbouring olive tree I didn’t really have a source of ‘smokeable’ wood..
That got me thinking of other ways to smoke food & i remembered once making Tea Smoked Trout fillets and I realised I could use the same method to smoke the chillies. So I pulled out the ‘old’ wok that has been related to the cupboards after one use due to the handle falling off (yes thank you China Bazaar or Dubai Bazaar whichever you prefer this week) and lined it with silver foil
To make the SMOKE (yes it will make the kitchen look like the set of London’s Burning if you don’t open all windows & doors & extractor fan if available) mix 3 cups long grain rice, 3 cups tea leaves & 3 cups of demerara sugar and pour this into the foil lined wok.
Now take your chillies & using a small knife make a small slit from just below the stalk down to the tip of the chilli (this will help the flavour penetrate & dry out quicker)
Place a trivet inside the wok which enables the lid to the wok to be closed completely (you don’t want the smoke to get out) place your chillies in a layer on the trivet. If like me you don’t have a small enough wire rack to fit inside the wok (& don’t mind smelling of burnt rice) then use can thread a skewer with chillies and place it resting from one side of the wok to the other, with the lid on & a couple of wet tea towels blocking the gaps around the lip of the lid.
Turn the heat to moderate until you can smell smoke is being created & then turn the heat down to low and leave the chillies to smoke for as long as possible. I left mine for a few hours at which point the rice/sugar/tea mixture is lifted out in the foil and disposed of.
The chillies will now smell smoked but they wont be dried. To dry them place them in one layer on an oven tray on the lowest oven setting with the door ajar & leave till they are shrivelled and dark red/brown but not so dry that they become brittle and snap! OR if you are lazy (like me) and own a microwave (like me) then you can try Microwave Drying! Take a microwave safe plate & cover with kitchen towel- place a few chillies on the plate & using the LOWEST setting (defrost is best) try blasting them for 10 seconds at a time till they are dry.
Do not take a deep breath/sniff during all this- I have done it and the drying chillies are quite potent 😮
As you can see my finished Chipotle isn’t quite as brown & wrinkly as the picture at the top but for a first attempt at smoking drying a chilli & without the proper tools I think its good, after all it is smoked and it is dried..
I did a LOT of searching on line to find a blog/how to on smoke drying chillies at home and found NONE using a wok (yes yes yes Plenty smoking Fish but not Chillies) so correct me if I’m wrong but currently it is MY invention 😛
Perhaps a smoking expert can come forward with an easier way for me to do this in future (preferably using the Barbeque & a wood easily available in Northern Cyprus)