Fresh peppers are a great addition to any recipe, but if you want to make sure that you always have peppers on hand, consider keeping dried ones. Drying foods has long been used as an effective way to preserve foods. And when you dry peppers, it actually enhances their flavor! If you want to learn how to dry peppers from your garden or from your local farmers market, here’s how.
Before you begin preparing your peppers, make sure to wear a pair of gloves. This will prevent the capsaicin from irritating your skin while you are working. Also be very careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth during the process.
Once you have selected your peppers, wash them thoroughly. Leave out any ones with blemishes. You can also slice them lengthwise to encourage faster drying times. If you wish, you can remove the seeds at this time. But if you like the kick, leave the seeds in for more spice.
There are two main ways to dehydrate peppers, in the oven or strung up and hung in a dry environment. Both methods are a slow process, but if you have a day at home, the oven method is worth tackling. The key to dehydrating the peppers and not cooking them is to have the oven on low. 140-180 is the best range. If your oven has a convection feature, definitely utilize it.
Place the prepared peppers on a metal cooling rack. This will allow for better airflow. Do not over crowd the peppers. Make sure there is at least an inch between each one. Put them in the oven and leave the door slightly ajar. This will allow moisture to escape through the process.
It is difficult to say how long it should take since this will differ depending on the pepper you are preserving. Just keep an eye on them and rotate them every 30 minutes or so. The final texture should be completely dry and crispy, not leathery at all. Any moisture left in the flesh will compromise the peppers in storage and they will spoil. The entire process could take up to 12 hours.
For this method, all you need is a needle and thread. Create a loop at the beginning of the line so that you can hang the garland. Then, begin stringing the peppers onto the garland by feeding the thread through the sturdy cap of the pepper. Leave them hanging in a warm and dry area, like your kitchen. When they are completely dry and crispy, they are ready. This usually takes 3- 4 weeks.
To store your dried peppers, place them in an airtight storage container such as a glass jar. You can then grind up the peppers as needed when cooking. They can be kept this way for years.
California enjoys warm, sunny days all year round, making it the perfect place to start a garden. So why not try your hand at growing your own peppers this year. And when harvest time rolls around, you can try out these drying methods.