The growing season is short for hot peppers in Vermont – the first cold snap comes in and puts the gardener quickly to work to harvest and preserve the spicy bounty of a summer’s effort.
Pickling is a great way to preserve peppers – they have a special place in many recipes that can be made in place of fresh peppers, but smoked peppers can add so much to other types of dishes – grilled meats, hearty soups, and stir-fries benefit greatly from the smoky autumnal flavor to be enjoyed deep into the winter months.
There are two types of smokers – hot and cold. A hot smoker uses heat and smoke to simultaneously cook and flavor – the temperature range is ideally between 165 and 185 degrees. Because I have six different varieties with differing thicknesses I use a hot smoker with three racks that allows me to move the peppers around to assure an even outcome.
After you have found a smoker to your liking, begin by choosing a wood to use for smoking – I have a small bag of mesquite chip that has served me well for a few years. Most home stores should have a few different types to choose from. Soak the wood for a few hours and keep it wet during the time you’ll be smoking.
Harvest your peppers, wash and dry them well.
Small peppers won’t stay on the racks, so I cut some metal screening to put on the racks to prevent them from falling through.
Check the weather to be sure it’s likely not going to rain for a day or two. Smoking peppers takes time and you might as well be comfortable while doing it.
Put the peppers on the racks. I start by sorting them by variety to begin the process, but it won’t be long before you will want to move them around to be sure they smoke evenly. I use tongs to move the peppers, not because they are hot to the touch, but touching them often at this point may put you at risk of pepper burn.
Keep coming back every hour or so to check for even smoking. You’ll know when they’re done when they’re dry, light, but still retain good color.
Dried peppers can be left whole and ground anytime over the course of the year – if kept dry and out of the light they will last a long time. If a few of your peppers aren’t quite dry, put them in an oven at 200 degrees for a short time – keep an eye on them – you may not want them to lose their color, although a caramelized smoked hot pepper is also a good alternative flavor as well.
#1 – Rule of thirds composition, establishing wide shot of the overall scene
#2 – Rule of thirds composition, medium shot, vertical shot
#3 – Horizontal shot, forced flash
#4 – Forced flash, close up, vertical shot
#5 – Shot with clean background, close up, three way lighting technique
#6 – Close up, forced flash