Dehydrating Hot Peppers: Drying Hot Peppers for Use Next Winter

Dehydrating hot peppers will ensure that you will always have this spice handy in and out of season. After drying, these condiments can last for more than a year under the right storage conditions. Under normal conditions without drying, they can last a few days to a week or a little bit longer in a refrigerator.

The Selection Process

Before you start the drying process, you need to select pods that are good for drying. Some things to look for whether you are buying or reaping from your own garden:

  • The pods must be firm, so discard those that are soft or mushy
  • There must be no soft spots or blemishes as these may indicate spoilage
  • Check for rotting or other odors other than normal spicy scent

The best flavors and longevity when dehydrating hot peppers depend a lot on selecting the best pods. While the drying method is important, if the fruits are of poor quality you will have spoilage. It is therefore important to pay as much attention to the selection process as you do to the drying and storage.

Methods of Dehydrating Hot Peppers

Safety is important throughout the process so you should consider wearing gloves, goggles and a dust mask. It is also a good idea to wear gloves during the preparation stage and to avoid touching the eyes or face. Before you start, you will need to remove the stems. Peppers give off strong fumes, so air circulation is important, especially if you are doing the drying indoors.  Also, make sure to wash peppers before drying them.

Anyone who is interested in dehydrating hot peppers can use one of three methods. You can use a dehydrator, leave them out in the sun, or you can dry them in the oven. Whichever method you use, the peppers will not lose their potency. The main methods of drying hot peppers are:

Sun Drying

This requires placing the peppers outside in direct sunlight, and you will need to:

  • Place the peppers on a tray or large bowl, or hang in clusters from a string, making sure to leave some space between them
  • Put the tray outside where it will get lots of sunlight
  • Stir constantly to ensure that all of them get sunlight

If drying cut peppers, you will need to cover them with cheesecloth or other protective material to keep away insects and dust. If there is consistent sunlight, they will be ready in about 12 – 14 days. Depending on the weather conditions and the size of the peppers this time may vary.

Dehydrator Method

You can dry them either whole or in halves when using the dehydrator, but cut pieces will dry quicker. When removing moisture using this piece of equipment, do the following:

  • Put the peppers on the dehydrator tray making sure to leave space between them so they are not touching
  • Put the tray into the dehydrator, turn temperature on at around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have the manual, use the temperature guide
  • Rotate the trays after about two hours to ensure even drying
  • Test a pepper after about one hour; if it cracks when you squeeze it between your fingers, it is dry. If it does not, you need to give it some more time to dry properly
  • Allow them to cool then store in an air-tight container

Oven Drying Method

This way takes a long time up to five or more hours, but it works. The basic steps for drying them in the oven are:

  • Set oven to around 150 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Place the peppers in a single layer on the tray leaving space between them for air circulation
  • Prop the oven door open a few inches for moisture release
  • Turn them every hour or so to ensure even drying
  • If they start to look brown or black, turn down the temperature as they are not drying but actually cooking instead
  • Test them to ensure they are done by rubbing between your fingers, if they crumble they are ready. If they remain pliable, there is still too much moisture. After completion of the drying process store them in an air tight container

Some people who grow their own peppers try the air-drying method. This is the slowest method but it works well. One way to air dry peppers is:

  • Cut the plant at the stems
  • Use a piece of string to tie the stems leaving space between each
  • Hang the stems in an area that is dark and cool. Dank areas will only result in spoilage
  • They can remain like this and you can use them when you need to. Since the process is slow, they will retain much of the color and freshness longer. 

Dehydrating hot peppers means a constant supply even when prices are high due to short supply. If there is a shortage, you will have this condiment to keep your meals spicy. Best of all, removing the moisture content can result in better tasting peppers and in some cases, can make them even hotter than when fresh.

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