Q: Hi dave,
I’m currently growing a good crop of Scotch bonnets and am very interested in smoking them. I need a simple design for a smokehouse capable of processing about 30kg of fresh chillies per week. What are the humidity requirements, if any? Is a hot or cold smoke preferable? I am living in southeast Queensland in Australia. I have about 14 varieties of chilli growing and the Scotch bonnets seem to be yielding a lot higher than the other varieties. I have a market for all I can produce, fresh or frozen, and feel that value adding by smoking could be more profitable for some varieties. Any help would be appreciated.
A: G’day, Max:
Most people think that to smoke chiles, you need to dry them in the smoke as well, which takes an enormous amount of time and energy in the form of wood, especially if the humidity is high. Also, smoking them whole takes a lot more time than smoking them halved, because twice as much surface area is exposed when they are cut in half. What I would do, if I were you, would be to take the halved chiles to a commercial dehydrator and pay them to dehydrate them to about 60-75 percent (you will probably have to experiment). Then, smoke them the rest of the way to the desired dryness.Now, what to use to smoke them? You could buy a large, commercial smoker for a few thousand AU$ and dedicate it to chiles, or, if you are handy at building things, you can
convert an old refrigerator or two. You will need an external firebox with a metal tube about 4 inches in diameter running into the bottom of the refrigerator. This firebox should have a vent to control air flow. On top of the refrigerator, you will need a hole with a small exhaust fan attached (the fan may not be necessary and a vent with a closure may work). Inside, you need to mount racks made of wire mesh about 4 inches apart. Build a fire in the firebox and adjust the vent so that you are getting smoke and it should flow through the racks with the chiles on them. Just don’t smoke them with eucalyptus wood! Hope this helps.—Dave