Friday, September 28, 2012
I have often felt little twinges of jealousy when watching my Mexican friends eat jalapeño peppers. I mean, for God’s sake, those guys can put away A LOT of jalapeño peppers, and without breaking a sweat. I get an upset stomach just watching them do it.
The truth is, I love jalapeño peppers. They are absolutely delicious, and, like many peppers, they have a unique flavor profile. I simply cannot tolerate the heat of more than a few of these in my dishes, and my family tolerates even less than I can. I can remember going to the farmer’s market and buying a small package of these delicious peppers, only to have them spoil before I could consume them all.
It was just too much for my frugal heart to bear, and I decided that I should instead grow my own, and then I would have a nice supply on hand without having to waste those I did not eat.
A lot of good that did me ! As it turned out, my first attempt at growing jalapeño peppers was a disaster. Not because they would not grow, but because they went ballistic, and I ended up with about 5 pounds of peppers on my first harvest. There I was again, staring at more jalapeños than I would ever use in a year. I had to think fast.
...and then it came to me.
I decided that I was going to smoke them (not like tobacco...the other way), and then they would be preserved for whatever I wanted to use them for. It was a stroke of genius, I tell you...I was inspired.
Let’s talk about smoked jalapeño peppers for a moment. Smoking jalapeños is actually quite common. The resulting product is referred to as a chipotle pepper, and they are a mainstay of Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. Chipotle peppers are made by smoking very ripe jalapeños (bright red) until they shrivel up like raisins and turn nearly black in color. The process dries them out, and they can then be stored at room temperature for a very long time. I opted NOT to use this method, because my jalapeños were not ripe, but bright green. I wanted to preserve them a bit, but did not want the somewhat pungent smokiness to overpower the “green” flavor of the unripe jalapeño. I formulated my plan.
I did not have a smoker at the time (I do now), so I decided to create a makeshift smoker using my gas grill and some wood chips and aluminum foil. I simply fired up one side of my grill (leaving the other side cool) and soaked some wood chips (which I bought at the local home improvement store, in the barbeque department) in water, then wrapped them in a layer of aluminum foil. I poked holes in the foil pouch of wood chips, and set it on the lit side of the grill.
I carefully laid my jalapeños out on the grates on the other side of the grill, turned the heat down to as low as it would go, and then covered the grill. After a while the heat under the foil pouch of wood chips made them smolder, and the inside of the grill was soon filled with smoke. I let these smoke for about 3 hours, turning the peppers frequently, until they were shriveled up but not quite black (there was still a bit of green showing). I removed them from the grill and spread them out in some baskets in a single layer and let them dry in the sun for several days, until they felt a bit like dried apricots. They were ready to go.
At this point, I packed them into Ziplock freezer bags and froze them, but not before setting some aside to make what is now my soon-to-be-famous Smoked Jalapeño Barbeque Sauce. Here is how it all came together:
20 each Smoked Jalapeño or Chipotle Peppers, entire fruit
16 ounces Cider Vinegar
12 ounces Amber Ale
6 ounces Tomato Paste
5 each Tomatoes
2 each Onions, fresh
3 cloves Garlic
2 tablespoons Onion, minced, dried
4 sprigs Thyme
½ cup Brown Sugar
16 ounces Molasses, full flavor
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Dry Mustard
2 teaspoons Cumin
2 teaspoons Paprika
1 teaspoon Seasoned Salt
3 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
3 Tablespoons Teriyaki Sauce
1. Peel and coarsely chop the Onions and Garlic.
2. Combine all ingredients and simmer on very low heat for 3-4 hours.
3. Let cool and then puree using an immersion blender or in a standard blender.
4. Strain and refrigerate.
This sauce is absolutely delicious served as a side sauce for barbeque ribs, chicken, beef, pulled pork, or whatever else you want to barbeque. I have to warn you it is a bit hot (smoking jalapenos intensifies the heat), but you will still find yourself licking it off of your fingers, because it is very tasty. I have kept this in a refrigerator for over a year and it not only remained delicious, I believe the aging mellows it into an even more delicious sauce than when it is first made.
For an extra delicious treat, try adding some raspberry jam to the sauce and serving it with a barbeque leg of lamb, paired with an intense Australian Shiraz. Outstanding !!!
As for the rest of the smoked jalapeños, I pull some out every so often when I cook Southwestern or Mexican food, and use them for a smoky and hot flavor burst.
Enjoy in good health !