Chunks or logs of fragrant hardwood, preferably a combination of oak and mesquite
1 1/4 pounds red-ripe jalapeno chiles with stems
1/2 cup dried red New Mexico chile puree or commercial chile paste, such as Santa Cruz
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
Prepare a smoker according to the manufacturer's directions, using the
wood chunks and achieving a steady temperature of 275 to 300 degrees F.
Place the chiles directly on the smoker rack (or use a shallow disposable
foil pan) at the cooler end of the smoking chamber or on the upper rack if your
smoker has one.
Lower the cover and smoke the chiles for 2 1/2 hours, or until they are
soft, brown, and slightly shriveled.
Remove the chipotles from the smoker. In a medium nonreactive saucepan,
combine them with the chile puree, water, tomato paste, vinegar, brown sugar,
garlic, and salt. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring
once or twice, until the sauce is very thick, about 15 minutes.
Cool to room temperature.
Transfer the chipotles to a covered storage container and refrigerate for
at least 24 hours before using. They can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or
frozen for up to 2 months.
Unsauced Dried Chipotles: After removing the chiles from the smoker, place them
on a rack and leave them, loosely covered, at room temperature, until crisp, light,
and dry, 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the humidity. Store airtight at room temperature.
Green jalapenos can be used, but red ones are more beautiful and have a deeper,
sweeter flavor. Grow your own, or in the store, select chiles that have begin to
turn red; they will eventually ripen. (Those picked without any red at all in their
peels will always remain green.)
It might help you to know that I just weighed 1 1/4 pounds of jalapenos, and
it took 30 peppers. But since my jalapenos were on the small side, I'd think
that 20-25 dried chipotles would be about the right amount.