Drying Hot Peppers
Not knowing what to do with the CSA's hot pepper offering? Why not save them?
Most small hot peppers have thin walls, which makes them excellent candidates for drying. As long as the peppers are botanically mature (evidenced by fully-formed beige seeds inside), they can be dried even if they have not yet changed to red. Drying peppers indoors is a simple matter of stringing whole peppers together by passing a needle and thread through their green caps, and hanging them in a warm, well-ventilated space for about two weeks. It’s a good idea to finish drying peppers in a warm oven for about 30 minutes before packing them away in airtight jars.
Alternatively, you can split peppers in half for drying in a dehydrator. Be sure to wear protective gloves when cutting hot peppers, and turn on a fan to ensure good air circulation.
When dry to almost crisp, hot peppers can be pulverised into hot pepper flakes in a food processor, or steeped in vinegar to make a hot pepper sauce for sprinkling over cooked greens and other veggies.
Dried hot peppers are also great for making homemade chilli paste. To make the best chilli paste you’ve ever eaten, place a few dried hot peppers in a dry pan, and toast them over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for four to five minutes. Then cover with warm water for an hour. Add some salt and a couple of cloves of finely minced garlic, pulverise into a paste, and you have the condiment that has made Szechwan food famous. It’s one of the best reasons I know for learning how to preserve peppers.