Smoking Peppers

Posted on Categories:"How To Grow", Edible Plant Growing Information

­If you love hot peppers like we do, have you ever considered smoking peppers? Smoking them takes “eating peppers” to a whole new dimension. It’s not only a great way to add extra flavor to your pepper harvest, but it’s a great way to preserve peppers too.

Photo of smoker starting up
Firing up the smoker!

Contents

Smoked peppers make great gifts

If you’re the type of person who likes giving homemade gifts during the holiday season or special occasions, smoked peppers make great gifts.  Gift idea: We smoked and crushed red cayenne and chipotle peppers, filled pepper shaker jars and gave them as a wedding present to our newlywed friends in September!

Smoked Peppers in glass jars as gifts
Glass jars make a great display for smoked peppers as gifts!

Smoking the peppers: The process

Planning

Planning this whole process starts with deciding what peppers to grow before spring starts. December is a great month to think about the types of peppers you’d like to smoke the following year. The world is still in a pseudo-state of chaos which means everything we took for granted as being available two years ago may be out of stock next week. ­­

How much?    

If you’re just starting out, we recommend at least 2 plants. Redundant systems are a great way to minimize risk. In case one plant is destroyed by nature, a plague of locusts or late blight, it’s nice to have a back-up to at least have something to show for a growing season. Pepper plants vary on yield depending on the variety or cultivar. This is the point in time when knowing the expected minimum yield helps with planning for the expected dried/smoked peppers at the end of the season. 

­­MEG’s Grow Bag Yields: Here are some benchmark yields for MEG’s Grow Bag peppers per single plant. The numbers are conservative and on the low side. It’s a good idea to estimate conservatively so there’s enough to meet your needs.Average yield and size of peppers:

Name                        Average Yield          
Early Jalapeño             40-50  
Red Flame Cayenne      50-60  

Smoking/drying peppers will inevitably reduce a majority of the overall weight of the pepper through dehydration. Expect to see the peppers significantly smaller after dried vs. fresh off the plant. The finished, dried product of a pepper plant with average yield shown in the table above will yield a couple of cups of dried powder. That sounds anticlimactic, we know, but the resulting powder will be potent and the best tasting pepper seasoning you’ve ever tried!

"Red Flame" Cayenne Pepper plant grown in a MEG's Edible Grow Bag
“Red Flame” Cayenne Pepper Plant grown in a MEG’s Edible Grow Bag

Fire up the smoker

Photo of smoker warming up
Smoker warming up

Now, it’s time to fire up the smoker. We use an automated, auger-fed pellet smoker. Any smoker will work though. Set the smoker for roughly 185-200F. We want to smoke the peppers, not cook them. While the smoker is warming up, get the peppers ready. First, wash them in cold water.

Word of warning: If you don’t like crying, we suggest you wear gloves when handling peppers. Even though jalapeños and cayenne peppers aren’t as hot as ghost peppers, they’ll still cause discomfort if you touch your eyes after handling.    

Now that the peppers are washed, use a knife to cut down the size of the pepper lengthwise (butterflying the pepper). This is especially helpful for the bigger peppers to get both the inside and outside of the pepper exposed to the smoke and to help with drying later. ­­

­­­­As soon as the smoke is up to temperature (shouldn’t be any more heavy smoke) and the peppers are finished being prepped, lay the peppers out on the racks. For smaller peppers, use a vegetable pan for the grill so the peppers don’t fall through the grate. 

photo of smoking peppers on racks
Peppers on racks and ready for smoking!

At this point, it’s the smoker’s job to work its magic for the next 3 hours.

­­If you want to add freshly smoked peppers to a dish, then pull the peppers off the smoker and throw them in your dinner. Otherwise, you can place them in the refrigerator or freezer for a longer shelf life. Since the peppers still have moisture, they need to be preserved. Otherwise they’ll start to mold!

Finish drying

After the smoker is finished, we move the peppers to a homemade dehydrator for the next 1-2 days with a temperature set to 120F. Once the peppers are completely dry (indicated by a non-rubbery skin), we usually throw them on the smoker for an additional hour for finishing.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, that’s fine. Simply place the peppers on a plate by a sunny window for a few days. ­­

Processing

At this point, it’s time to finish processing the peppers. The peppers should be thoroughly dry with no signs of moisture. We have a few different methods for processing peppers:  

photo of cayenne after smoking peppers
Finished cayenne peppers

Blender

For big batches, we use a blender. It does a good job of breaking the peppers down into flakes i.e. similar to crushed red pepper consistency.

photo of smoked cayenne peppers in blender
Blender works great for grinding peppers

Coffee Bean Grinder

If grinding peppers for use in a salt shaker container, use the coffee bean grinder to finish the job. This tool does a fantastic job of getting the right consistency. The blender will also work for shakers. However, the consistency will be lost resulting in an uneven finished product.

Hands

If using a couple of smoked peppers for a dish, simply crush the peppers with your hands. This only works with completely dried peppers.

Bulk Storage

If you have peppers and you’re not sure what you want to do with them yet, simply toss them in an airtight container to be used at a later date. After the finished processing is complete, it’s time for storage. We save spice jars from the grocery store in order to reuse for this purpose. Other containers that work well are Ziplock baggies, glass jars (these are great for using as gifts) Also, plastic snap lid containers work great for storage. ­­ ­­

photo of finished red cayenne peppers
Finished red cayenne peppers. Pizza anyone?