Chipotle Peppers are smoked, dried jalapenos. Jalapenos are green for most of the growing season, but turn red in the fall. Theses deep red jalapenos are smoked for days until completely dry. It takes about 10 pounds of jalapenos to make a pound of chipotle. Traditionally chipotle is produced in a sealed smokehouse, but some commercial producers can use gas driers and artificial smoke flavoring producing a less flavorful chipotle.
Chipotles date back to region that is now northern Mexico City, prior to the Aztec civilization. It is conjectured that the Aztecs smoked the chilies because the thick, fleshy, jalapeno was difficult to dry and prone to rot. The Aztecs used the same “smoke drying” process for the chilies as they used for drying meats. This smoking allowed the chilies to be stored for a substantial period of time.
Chipotles are principally grown and smoked in Veracruz, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, South Texas, and Southern New Mexico. As much as 1/5 of the total Mexican jalapeño crop, some 620,000 tons in 2009, and 30% of the total Chile varieties grown, is smoke-dried into chipotles.