Dry Chilies

Author: Daniel Gasteiger  |  Category: dry vegetables, food dehydrator, food dryer, food drying

If you want to preserve chili peppers, I encourage you to use your food dryer (if you have one) to dry cut-up sections of larger peppers, or to dry whole fruits of the smaller pepper varieties.

Of course, there are other ways to preserve peppers… here are some thoughts:

Things to Consider about Preserving Chili Peppers

Chilies are among a large selection of foods that you can preserve in many ways. Freezing, drying, canning, pickling, and fermenting are all effective for extending the storability of this fine garden produce.

Store Chilies in your Freezer

Chilies will keep in your freezer for at least a year. The down side of freezing is that it breaks down the cells of the chilies so the vegetables become soggy or mushy when they thaw. When you do freeze chilies, plan to use them for cooking.

Prepare chilies for freezing by dicing them as you might to include in soups, sauces, and stir fry. Then, blanch them by submerging them 3 minutes in boiling water followed by 3 minutes in ice water. Spread the diced peppers one layer deep on baking pans and freeze them overnight. Then transfer the peppers to freezer bags. You’ll be able to take measured amounts of frozen diced peppers from the bags as you need them in your cooking.

Thoughts about Canning Chilies

Canning is a valid way to preserve chili peppers, but the method alters the peppers much as freezing does: canning involves cooking, so canned chili peppers tend to be soft and best to use in cooked foods.

BEWARE! Chilies are low in acid. It’s not safe to can them in a boiling water bath. Rather, to make them safe for long-term storage, you must use a pressure canner. You’ll find useful information about pressure canning vegetables in the article, Pressure Canning from your Home Kitchen Garden.

If you’re not ready to try pressure canning, but you have a lot of chili peppers to manage, consider quick-pickling. Quick-pickling is the process of packing low-acid foods in vinegar and salt brine—and often sugar as well. The brine prevents microbes from growing, and lets you safely seal chilies in canning jars using a boiling water bath canner. My favorite recipe for quick pickling peppers involves making red pepper relish.

Chilies in a Food Drier

Drying chili peppers seems as though it should be a simple task: set them in a warm, dry place and they’ll dehydrate. It’s best practice to blanch chilies before you dehydrate them. So, follow the procedure for blanching that I explained in the freezing section (above).

Spread the blanched chili pieces one layer deep on your food dryer’s trays. It’s OK if the pieces touch, but don’t let them overlap. Set the food dryer’s temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit if your dehydrator has a temperature control knob. Let the peppers dry for five hours and check them to see whether they’re dry. To test, remove a piece from the food dryer, let it cool for a minute or two, and bend it until it breaks; it should snap clean like a dry twig. If this doesn’t happen, continue drying the peppers and check them every hour or two until they’re brittle.

When the peppers are dry, turn off the food dryer and let it cool to room temperature. At that point, package the chili peppers in an air-tight container. For longest-term storage, vacuum seal them. To use dried chilies in your cooking, simply add them to wet dishes such as soups and sauces and give them ample time to cook. For drier dishes such as stir-fry, float the dried chilies in boiling hot water and let them cool for ten minutes before adding them to the skillet.

I can’t help but recommend my book, Yes You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too for instruction in all types of food preservation. The book provides detailed, step-by-step instructions with full-color photos from my kitchen showing how I preserve vegetables and fruits.

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