Penray in Otaki have pick your own chillies for $5.95 a kilo at the moment, so I was more or less obliged to take some late season red jalapeño off their hands in order to make chipotle sauce. A true chipotle is a completely dried and smoked red jalapeño chilli, and these are rehydrated in hot water to make a sauce. After a bit of looking online, I took an average and cut some corners, and I seem to have managed a good chipotle sauce with a fair amount of heat, a bonny colour, and a good blend of smoke, sour, citrus and fruity chilli flavours. First, equipment you will need:
- A large roasting pan
- Mortar & pestle
- A smoker
- Hickory chips for smoking
- A very large jam saucepan, at least 8 litres (2 gallons)
- Stick blender
Ingredients (these are approximate amounts, I pretty much made it up as I went along):
- 7 kg (15 lb) red jalapeño chillies
- olive oil
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 2-3 large onions
- 2 tbsp cumin seed
- 2 tbsp salt
- 450 g (1 lb) tomato concentrate paste
- 300 ml (½ pint) juice of lemons and limes. That’s quite a lot; about 5 lemons and 10 limes, probably more
- 300 ml (½ pint) cider vinegar (other vinegars would probably do)
- Lots of boiling water, to stop it glooping and spattering everywhere
Preheat the oven to grill at least 240°C.
Pour all the chillies in the sink, fill it up with cold water and give them a good old wash to get all the mud, insect poo and residue off the outside. De-stem and halve the chillies and place cut-side down in an oven tray. If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves; my arms were rather pleasantly on fire, from fingernail to elbow, for the rest of the day.
Put the tray of chillies in the oven to grill for at least 15 minutes or until the skins are well blistered and just beginning to blacken. (I had to do this step several times… 7 kg is a lot of chillies!)
While this is going on, get the smoker fired up with a few pine cones and kindling, and leave to burn down to form a good bed of embers.
Once the chillies are done, optionally remove the blistered skins (I left some of them on for a bit of texture and colour) and place them on trays in the smoker.
Pile up a load of hickory chips on the ember bed and close the lid on the smoker. Go drink some good wine, and leave chillies to smoke for a good few hours (at least 3 hours if you can manage it), the longer the better. Whenever the smoke starts to die down, get in there with some more wood chips and your best brass player breathing practice. Rinse and repeat for as long as you can be bothered, really.
At some point during the smoking stage, grind the cumin in the mortar & pestle, and finely dice the onions and garlic. In a hot frying pan, dry-toast the ground cumin seed until fragrant, then tip in a bit of oil and sauté the garlic and onion with the cumin, and set aside.
Pull your now gloriously smoky chillies out of the smoker and tip into a truly gargantuan saucepan (I don’t actually have one, so I used two merely enormous saucepans instead). Add the sautéed onions and all the other ingredients, and stick-blend it, adding sufficient boiling water to thin it to a sauce consistency.
Bring it to the boil then simmer it for about 2 hours, stirring as needed to keep the bottom from sticking. It should reduce slightly and thicken. Like any pickle or jam, if it is glooping and spattering everywhere and sticking to the bottom, it is probably too thick; add water.
Once it has reduced and become slightly glossy, transfer it into pre-heated jars and seal immediately. This is where you re-use all those jars with quarter-turn metal lids you kept. These jars are best because unlike plastic lid jars, they will vacuum seal as the contents cool, and won’t leak air over a 2-3 year shelf life.
This recipe made sauce for 13 x 330 ml jars and 4 x 500 ml bottles, which is about 6.5 litres (1½ gallons) altogether.