Vol.1, No.9

How to dry your own chili peppers

An overview of four methods of drying chili peppers for later use.

Dried chili peppers
Perhaps you planted more chili peppers than you need for everyday use or perhaps someone has given you a portion of their harvest, now the question is what to do with all those peppers. The answer is dry the chili peppers for future use. Drying your peppers is much simpler than canning and less time consuming than freezing.

A word of caution: You may wish to wear gloves when working with peppers of any type. All peppers, and especially chili peppers, contain oils that will burn your eyes, mouth and nose, but may also burn the skin of those who have any type of sensitivity.

There are four accepted methods of drying chili peppers and each work well, with some methods working better than others depending on things like weather, airflow and humidity.

Sun drying is probably the oldest form of drying peppers. To do this, watch the weather reports and pick a time when it is supposed to be hot and sunny for several days in a row. Begin early in the morning so you will have the maximum amount of sunlight for the first day.

Slice your peppers in half and remove the seeds. Place each half of the pepper, cut side down onto an old window screen or sheet and lay out in the sun.

If you lay your screens or sheets on the roof of a car or inside a pickup truck bed, the process will go faster. Allow your peppers to dry for eight hours and then turn the peppers to where the cut side is facing up.

At dark, cover the screens or sheet with another old sheet to protect the peppers from bugs. Remove the sheet the next morning and repeat the process.

The dried chili peppers are ready when they are close to brittle, breaking easily between your fingers.

The second method of drying peppers is in the oven. If your oven is electric, preheat to the lowest setting. The pilot light on a gas oven is sometimes enough, use an oven thermometer to check the temperature; it should be around 150 - 200 degrees.

Prepare the chili peppers the same way as if you were drying outside or if you prefer you can cut them into thin rings. Spread the chili peppers evenly over baking pans or cookie sheets.

Allow the chili peppers to dry all day or overnight in the warm oven. You may wish to turn them once during the drying time, but this is not necessary.

Another old-fashioned method is to hang the peppers to dry. If you have a screened in porch or other area where there is plenty of airflow, this method works well.

You do not have to seed the peppers for this method of drying. You will need a carpet or other large eyed needle, and either heavy thread or fishing line.

Begin by threading your needle with a long length of thread or fishing line. At the other end, tie a small wooden dowel or stick to keep the bottom pepper from falling off. Thread the line through the center of each pepper, stacking one on top of the other in a rotating manner.

When the line is full, hang in a well ventilated area and allow nature to take its course. This method may take three weeks to a month for the peppers to dry completely.

The fourth way of drying peppers is in a dehydrator. Dehydrators can be purchased with or without a fan, and while the ones with a fan are a bit more expensive, they do their magic faster than those without.

Prepare your peppers as you would for the oven method. You can leave the seeds in or remove them if you wish. Lay the prepared peppers evenly on the trays of your dehydrator and turn the machine on.

Peppers generally take 8 - 10 hours to dry in a dehydrator with a fan or 10 - 12 in one without.

Dried peppers can be used as is in soups and stews but do need to be reconstituted to be used in other recipes. To do this, pour warm water to cover over the amount of peppers you wish to use.

The seeds that have been removed from the chili peppers can be dried on their own also. Once they have dried, they can be ground up in a spice mill and used for a hint of flavoring in many dishes.