Last year I tried smoking peppers for the first time. It was near the end of the season for the peppers, and I didn’t have a lot of them to choose from. But I loved the results, and the finished product is all gone except for the chipotle powder that is too hot for me to use in much quantity. This year I wanted to get a jump on the process, and I actually planted a few extra pepper plants with smoking in mind. You can see some of the ground peppers from last year in the below photo.
It’s still a bit early here for peppers, at least ripe ones, but I found enough to try my hand at smoking a batch this week. The ones in the below photo include Biggie Chili, Aji Golden plus a couple of the sweet Jimmy Nardello. Biggie Chili is a hybrid Anaheim type, while Aji Golden is a C. baccatum variety with a mild fruity taste. Both of these were partially ripe but still partly green . Last year I enjoyed the smoked green ones as much as I did the red ones, so I figure it doesn’t really matter too much. The Jimmy Nardello peppers are fully ripe, and there’s one ripe Aji Angelo in the mix plus one ‘mystery’ pepper which is likely a Hot Happy Yummy that is not true to type.
Last year I had the best results using my charcoal Weber grill, so that’s the method I used this year. I built a small fire on one side, then added a foil packet of dry cherry wood chips. I poked holes in the top of the packet, and set it down right on the hot coals. Then I arranged the peppers on the grill away from the heat, closed down the vents to just a crack, and put on the lid. My goal was to use as little heat as possible, and to keep all that smoke inside the grill.
I left the peppers on for about an hour and a half. By that time the wood chips were done smoking. Then it was off to the dehydrator to dry them out. I moved the dehydrator out to the front porch so the whole house wouldn’t wind up smelling smoky. The Aji Golden, Aji Angelo and Jimmy Nardello should be ready first, as they are thin walled peppers. But the Biggie Chili will surely take longer since they are a bit meatier. They need to get to the leathery stage if you want to use them whole or store them for later use. If you want to grind them up into powder then they need to be crisp, and I will likely put them in the oven to finish them off and get them to that stage.
I plan on smoking more peppers later on as more varieties are ready. I especially want to try the mild jalapenos when they are ripe, and the Aji Angelos. Some ripe anchos would also be nice to try, since I didn’t have any for last year’s trials. I also have several varieties of paprika peppers planted and I hope to try smoking some of them as well. Last year I smoked a few of the Dulce Rojo and the smoked paprika was awesome. It will likely be tomorrow before the peppers have finished drying, and I will be back later to show what they looked like then.