Chili Peppers are an invaluable recipe staple adding much needed zing to your dishes. Drying them is a brilliant way of extending their life and preserving your peppers for use in future meals. The delicate skins make them quick and informal to dehydrate, guaranteeing that you have access to a supply of chilies to enjoy all year round. Dried chillies are also just as multipurpose as your fresh peppers. It is possible to store them in containers, grind them down into a delicious paste, thread them together to dry, and even infuse them in vinegar and oils to give you the hot taste at any time.
Why Dry Chili Peppers?
The main reason to dry peppers is to allow you to keep them around in your kitchen for a long time. Normally they will last for around a week at room temperature. Freezing peppers will allow them to last for a few months, but they do not thaw that well and you will be left with a mushy chili. However, if you dry your peppers, they will can last for a few years if you make sure that you store them correctly.
Harvesting Chili Peppers to Dry
It is important to know that you do not have to wait for your chilies to change in color before you are ready to pick them for drying. Chili peppers can be picked the moment the seeds inside the fruit have matured. You will know this has happened when the seeds have moved from small and white to plump and brown.
Remember that when you are harvesting chilies you really should be wearing protective gloves. A thoughtless rub of your eye during a fleeting lapse of concentration can lead to you being in pain. Protective gloves will prevent your hands and your eyes from the perils of the fiery fruits as you are harvesting them. Once carefully harvested there are three ways to dry chili peppers.
Make a Chili Pepper Ristra
A ristra is the name given to a collection of drying chili peppers. This is an easy way to air dry your chili peppers so that the remain full of flavor. They are extremely easy to create, and they look beautifully stunning. If you are brave enough to try to make a ristra then you will need to cut the chillies from the plant with lots of the attached stem undamaged. It will most likely be necessary to wipe down chili peppers with a dry cloth to eradicate any dirt.
To make you ristra you will need to start by using fine fishing line. This is the top thread to use for your ristra as it gives you the least resistance, permitting the chilies to easily slide on to the string with ease. Start by tying a knot at one end of the fishing line so that the chili peppers will not drop off. Then thread them onto the line with a darning needle. Push your darning needle through the cap of every chilli, instead of the fleshy part of the chili, which would be a cause for your chili to go bad.
As soon as all of your required number of chilies are threaded onto your fishing line, then simply tie them off and make a loop with them. Place the chili peppers in a circle by spacing them out about 60 degrees to each other. A curved ristra not only looks lovelier, but it also gives better airflow around the chillies, which will assist them in drying out more quickly. Rotate the chili peppers frequently and remove any which demonstrate any signs of softness or decay. Once made, hang up your ristra in an airy, dry warm, well-ventilated space.
Using a Dehydrator to Dry Chili Peppers
As an alternative to using the air-drying method to dry chilli peppers you can use a dehydrator which is quick and simple to use, and you can set it to an apt temperature. This is the fastest and most laid-back way to dry out your chilli peppers. The warm airflow will easily allow the chili peppers to dry out almost overnight. You can also speed up the drying process by splitting up your chilli peppers lengthwise. All you need to do is lay them out on to trays and allow your dehydrator to do all of the work. Yet again, a good pair of gloves will be useful to stop you from getting burned.
As soon as you have your dehydrator in place ensure that you have it set up correctly in your kitchen a well-ventilated spot. When your fruits are large in size, then you can just put them lengthwise in your dehydrator by putting them on the tray with adequate amounts of space around everyone to allow for good airflow. Smaller chili peppers can be left completely whole when you come to drying them.
Most dehydrators will have a temperature setting and so to dry out chili peppers you need to put them on a setting around 145 degrees. Allow your chilies to dry out in your dehydrator for about 12 hours. Make sure that you check in on them every now and again as the smaller pieces of chili may dry out much more quickly whereas bigger pieces will usually take a few more hours to completely dehydrate.
During the process you may find that there will be an accumulation of seeds at the bottom of your dehydrator as it does its job. Simply save these seeds either to replant in your garden at a later date or to use in other recipes. After this process has been completed, put your chilis in air-tight containers to stop moisture from getting to them.
Drying Chili Peppers in the Oven
You are also able to dry out your chili peppers in your kitchen oven. This is a convenient technique of drying them out and can be completed in just about any normal kitchen. It does need to be said however that there is one main drawback to using this method and that is it can take several hours for the peppers to completely dry out, contingent on their size. If it is a warm day it will also heat up your kitchen significantly so you may wish to avoid doing this on a warm summer’s day.
Put the chili peppers on a baking sheet in a single separate layer and put them in the oven. You will need to set your oven to its lowest setting, which is about 120°. You will also have to let any moisture escape from the oven as you are drying it, so keep open your oven door at least a few inches. On an hourly basis, rotate your chili peppers to give you even drying.
If your chili’s begin to get soft, or start turning black, or get tremendously hot then instead of drying them out you are cooking them and you definitely do not want to do this, because in reality what you are trying to do is dry them out completely to use them again at a later date. To prevent this from happening you can try turning the temperature down on your over slightly, turn the peppers over and keep them moving or open up your oven door even wider. The instant that your peppers are fully dry then you need to remove from your oven and put them once they are cool into an air-tight container. Remember again that bigger peppers will take much longer to fully dry out in comparison to smaller chilies.
When Your Chili Peppers are Dry
Correctly dried chili peppers must be lacking in any signs of moisture or a soft squishy body. Entirely dried peppers will still have a bit of suppleness in their skin – which means that you do not need to dry them out so much that they are black, disintegrating, or hard. But then again when in doubt, know that your chili peppers ought to be consistently dry, somewhat brittle, and have a hard skin.
How to Use Dried Chili Peppers
Separate up your dried chilis by the pepper type and color and store them in airtight high-quality plastic containers. This will mean that you can always have a convenient supply of fiery peppers to put into your sauces, pastas, soups, and more. You can easily crush up dried chili peppers in your food processor or spice mill making them much more versatile to be used as a chili pepper seasoning which can be used for every dish. If you place them in pretty jars you can also gift dried chili peppers to family and friends as exclusive gifts allowing them to spice up their own meals.
So, removing moisture from your chili’s will amplify and increase their heat and flavor. Dehydrated chili’s pack more of a sizzling punch and fierceness and add interest to your meals. Also, if you take the time to crush dried peppers up, you will be able to use them as a seasoning for all occasions.