The days are getting shorter, summer is winding down, and I can’t say I will miss the beastly hot days that have kept me out of the garden. The cooler nights seem to be reviving some of the annual flowers, tomatoes and herbs, and my pepper plants are still cranking out lots of peppers that are turning fire engine red overnight. This is the promised bounty of plants seeded in late February, potted up indoors to mature early, and finally transplanted outside. We try to extend the growing season as long as possible to make sure our red pepper harvest will be ready before the cold sets in. With these peppers we make smoked paprika, fermented Sriracha hot sauce (see Luis’s blog from July 2017) dried Ancho chiles, chili powder, and canned roasted red peppers.
To make the paprika we plant 20 Hungarian paprika plants, 10 Alma sweet paprikas, 3 Early Jalapenos, and 3 Thai chili peppers. This makes about a half gallon jar of a sweet, hot, deeply flavored powder that we use as a base for dry rubs, sauces, dressings and lots of other cooking projects. You can use almost any red pepper, adding as much hotness as you like.
The peppers ripen slowly, so I make small weekly batches starting in August when the peppers begin to ripen. Using a steel wok with a lid to smoke them in works well for the amounts I harvest every week. The process is pretty easy, but it does make the house a bit, uh, fragrant. I rather like the smell, but others in the household do not. You can also smoke the peppers in an outdoor smoker or on your outdoor brewing burner if you have a big enough harvest to warrant firing it up. Here is how I make this powdery goodness…
Using a steel wok, fill it half way up with chunky hickory, apple or alder chips that have been soaked in water for half an hour. I reuse the same chips throughout the season, but you may want to refresh them if they get too burned. Heat the wok on high until the water evaporates and the chips begin to smoke.
Cut the ends off the peppers, and slice them in half lengthwise, keeping the seeds intact if you like. Place them on a bamboo/reed cheese mat that is placed right on top of the chips. You can also use a metal rack if it fits inside the wok. Cover loosely with the wok lid and let it smoke for about 10 minutes. Monitor the heat so as not to cause a fire; you want lots of smoke. Turn off the heat and let the peppers sit in the smoky wok for 5-10 minutes. You can stop there or fire it up again to infuse more smoke into the peppers, depending on your preference.
Remove the peppers from the wok, and place them cut side up on the racks of an electric dehydrator at 135 degrees for 8-10 hours. You can also dry them in a low oven with the door cracked open. Be sure that the peppers are thoroughly dry and crispy by the end of the dehydrating process.
Grind the peppers in a spice grinder to turn them into powder. I use a retired coffee grinder, and you can also use a high powered blender for this step.
Your homemade smoked paprika will keep for a year, but we use ours up long before that. A jar of homemade paprika and a bottle of homemade Sriracha sauce makes a super cool holiday gift combo.
Keep Fifth Season Gardening in mind for a huge variety of organic pepper starts when planning your next year’s kitchen garden. We also have all the jars, bottles and fermenting supplies for your tasty homemade holiday gifts.