Like all fruits and vegetables, peppers have a relatively short shelf life. Luckily, drying peppers couldn’t be easier. The whole objective is to get rid of all the moisture in the pepper. There’s no right way to do it, but here are some of the more common methods.
You can place your peppers on a rack and just leave them there for several weeks. You’ll know they’re completely dried when they become hard and brittle. If you don’t have a few weeks to spend drying peppers, you can cut slits in the peppers or just slice the pepper into smaller pieces. The peppers will dry in a matter of hours. And, actually, you don’t really need the rack. As long as you place the peppers in a well-ventilated area, you’ll be fine.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in a warm, dry area (the desert), you might want to leave your peppers out in the sun. The exact opposite goes for those who live in wet areas (like Seattle). Air-drying peppers in the wet northwest may result in damp, moldy peppers. Those don’t work too well in most recipes.
Ristras are those strands of dried peppers hanging in many southwestern kitchens. They make great decoration and are an excellent way to dry your peppers. To make a ristra, hold a cluster of three chiles by the stem as you wrap a string around the stems a few times. Make a half hitch to secure the cluster and just repeat the process until you’ve used up all your peppers.
Another way to make a ristra is to use a needle to thread the stems of each pepper so that you form a spiral with the peppers. Drying peppers on ristras usually takes a few weeks.
Dehydrators and Ovens for Drying Peppers
If you don’t have a few weeks to sit around drying peppers, you might want to think about getting a dehydrator. If you don’t want to spend the extra money, your oven will work just fine. When using either the dehydrator or oven, make sure the temperature isn’t higher than 140 ° F (60.5 ° C). For larger peppers, cut them in half to speed up the drying process.
Jalapenos are peppers, about 2 inches long. These large, fleshy peppers usually rot before they can be air dried, so the industrious Aztecs developed a method of smoking jalapenos, which hastens the drying process and gives the pepper a nice, smoky flavor.
Smoking jalapenos can be fun and simple. Warn your neighbors prior to smoking or else they may think the neighborhood is burning.
To smoke a chipotle:
- Gather the necessary materials: small pieces of wood to fit into the smoker (don’t use poor quality wood: the flavor of the chipotles depends heavily on wood quality…that is unless you like the taste of cardboard); a bucket of water; fresh jalapenos; non-electric smoker, hardwood charcoal.
- Soak the wood in the water for about an hour. This will cause the wood to burn slower.
- Place the jalapenos on the rack at the top of the smoker (no, not your Aunt Margaret).
- Build a base fire using the hardwood charcoal. Once the briquettes are red-hot, add the soaked pieces of wood. Occasionally check that the fire isn’t too big.
- Keep the temperature in the smoker at about 150-170 ° F.
- Add more wood chips every 30 minutes.
- Smoke the jalapenos for 12 hours.
Roasting peppers is a great way to remove the skin. Start by poking the peppers with a fork, then heat the peppers in a gas flame, on the barbeque, or under the broiler. The peppers will “whistle and blister.” Wait for the peppers to turn brown before trying to remove the skin, otherwise, it won’t come off easily. Once the skin is charred, place the peppers in a sealed plastic bag and let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes. This will loosen the pepper skin and make it much easier to remove.
Roasted peppers are great additions to all sorts of dishes. If you want to save them for later, put them in a container and freeze them. The roasted peppers will last for quite a while.
Didn’t Want to Dry Them?
If you need to rehydrate peppers, simply soak the pepper in water for about 15 minutes.