One of the best ways to preserve peppers without canning is by drying them. Also known as dehydrating, this process involves removing all the moisture and concentrating the flavor and heat. No matter whether you want to dry hot, chili, cayenne, or habanero peppers, the steps are all the same. The only thing that’s different is how long they take to fully dry, which depends on the size and thickness of the peppers.
To dry peppers, you have to wash them first, then cut them into smaller pieces, and choose your preferred technique to dehydrate them. After that, you can store them for several months and enjoy them in your favorite recipes all year long.
Read on if you want to know more about preserving peppers and get some ideas on what to do with them once dried.
Before we start, we should warn you that hot peppers can burn your skin, so always wear gloves when working with them, and never touch your eyes. Even if you wear gloves, you should wash your hands thoroughly after handling peppers, using plenty of soap and hot water.
Now, drying peppers, whether they’re hot, chili, cayenne, or habanero peppers, is incredibly easy. If you want to dry a single piece, you can simply tie it on a string and hang it in your kitchen. Another option is to lay it on a small plate near a window and away from humidity, and rotate it every day until it slowly dehydrates on its own.
For larger amounts of peppers, you can try any of the following techniques:
You’re going to need string, scissors, a sewing needle, and lots of patience because air-drying peppers takes between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on the weather. This is what you have to do:
Weather conditions have a great impact on the drying process of peppers. If you live in a place with high humidity levels, air-drying peppers may not be the best option for preserving because they will mold or even rot.
A faster alternative involves using the oven. For this, you’re going to need a baking sheet, some parchment paper, and tongs. To dry peppers using the oven, you should:
You need to keep a very close eye on the peppers and remove the pieces that are done so they don’t burn or get cooked.
The foolproof way of drying peppers is to use a food dehydrator. It’s quick, convenient, and incredibly easy to do, just follow these instructions:
Dehydrating peppers can take anywhere between 4 and 12 hours, depending on the size and thickness of the peppers. We recommend checking on them often to see if the smaller or thinner pieces are done. If they are, you’ll notice that they’ve become dry and brittle. Also, bear in mind that larger pepper pieces can take a few extra hours to dehydrate.
If you wish to increase the flavor of your dried peppers, you can give them a quick blanch first. Bring a pot of water to a boil and dip your peppers for 4 minutes, then quickly transfer them to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Once they’re cool, you can dry them off and start the drying process of your choice.
Blanching can also be used to remove the skins and decrease the drying time of peppers. You just have to blanch them 6 minutes before chilling them, instead of 4. You’ll see that the skin will peel right off on its own.
If you’re drying hot peppers, keep in mind that the heat is going to intensify during the process. Since much of the heat is in the pepper seeds, you can remove them to make the peppers easier to use. You can leave them in if you like your peppers extra spicy, or dry them separately and ground them or use them whole in your recipes.
Storing your peppers properly is just as important as drying them correctly. First, you need to make sure that there’s no moisture left in the peppers before storing that can cause mold. Place them in an airtight container such as a glass jar or a paper bag at room temperature, and keep them in a cool, dark place.
Dried peppers are very versatile. Once they’re done, you can either store them or move on to using them immediately after and create tasty pepper flakes and powders. We typically recommend that you grind only the amount you plan to use in the immediate future. If you keep the dried peppers whole until you use them, the flavor will be preserved for longer.
By making your own pepper flakes or powder, you can customize the flavor and heat level to your taste by using sweet, hot, or mild dried peppers.
To make pepper flakes or powder, you have to break up the dried peppers into smaller pieces with your hands or kitchen shears. Whichever you choose, make sure to wear gloves. Then, simply use a food processor and grind them coarsely to make the flakes, or pulverize them with a food processor, spice mill, or blender.
Don’t forget to store the crushed red pepper flakes or the pepper powder in an airtight jar!
To rehydrate the dried peppers, bring a pan of water to a boil and let the peppers soak for approximately 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fruits.
Another option is to add the dried peppers to slow-cooked recipes. This is one of the best ways of infusing soups, stews, and chilies with flavor because the peppers will rehydrate as the liquid in these recipes simmers.
We like to remove the seeds before incorporating them into the recipe because they can add a slightly bitter flavor. Moreover, the added texture can prevent a smooth blending in sauces and soups. Keep in mind that it’s easier to remove the seed while the pepper is dry, rather than after rehydrating.
Dried peppers can last for many years, but their flavor and spiciness will fade over time. For optimal flavor, we recommend using them within 6 months of storing them and replenishing your supply every year.
The exact time it takes to dry peppers will vary depending on two factors: the type of pepper, and the chosen method for drying. For example, cayenne peppers have thinner skins than most, so they dry the quickest. Moreover, air-drying takes several weeks, a lot longer than using the oven, and even more than using a food dehydrator.
Peppers are fully dry when they become brittle and easy to break apart. If you notice any softness, it means that they need to dry longer.
You can dry peppers at any stage of ripeness, but green peppers won’t be as spicy as ripe ones.
Dehydrating peppers is a wonderful skill to learn, and with a bit of practice, you can be an expert in no time! Then, you can grind your dried peppers into powders or rehydrate them to use in soups, stews, and chilies. Be sure to also check out our full guide on Drying Food!
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