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Chat Leftovers: Dried chili peppers from your garden

Happy Wednesday, and this morning I'll start with a shout-out for our brand-new cooking class list, which you can find online starting today. It's a great collection of resources if you've been thinking about improving your knife skills, mastering an ethnic cuisine, becoming a better baker or learning just about anything that has to do with food. So check it out.

On the other hand, we don't want you to get too accomplished, because then you might not need our Free Range chat, every Wednesday at noon. And then I wouldn't have any leftovers to answer, like this one from last week's chat:

I grew a bunch of green peppers, and chopped and froze those, but have absolutely no clue how to dry my poblano, Hungarian, banana or jalapeno peppers. Tried baking them in a low-heat gas oven. How do you do it?

I guess you don't have a dehydrator, or you wouldn't be asking that question. But you do have an oven, and I wish I knew more about your failed attempt with it. The oven is actually a pretty good place to dry peppers. Just remember to set the heat as low as possible, Place the peppers right on the oven rack or on a baking sheet. Keep the oven door slightly ajar so the moisture from the peppers can escape, and keep an exhaust fan going over the oven to suck up any pungent fumes from the drying peppers. I've had better luck cutting them in half and cleaning out the seeds than drying them whole. The process takes several hours with cut peppers (overnight usually works, depending on the size of the peppers), but longer with whole ones.

i've read instructions on how to air-dry peppers, but I haven't tried it. One method: You run a thread through the middle or stem of several peppers, then string them up as if they were on a clothesline. You need to leave plenty of space between the peppers for good air circulation and even drying, so don't let them touch. Another method: Dry them outdoors on a screen in the sun. Of course, you need cooperative weather; this would have been perfect earlier in the summer, during our unremitting heat wave. Both of those methods take longer than an oven, but obviously they are low-energy, greener alternatives and are more traditional.

As always when working with hot peppers, wash your hands thoroughly after handling them and avoid rubbing your eyes. Disposable gloves would be a good idea.

Peppers are dried when they've lost all their moisture. They should be a little brittle but not crumbling. They can be stored, whole or crushed, in airtight containers, ready to be added to a soup, stew or sauce.

-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  | September 22, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags:  Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Beer: The good, the bad and the pumpkin


I've had poor luck drying hot peppers by simply stringing them on a thread and hanging them in my kitchen: Mould, both times.

However, I found that if I split them lengthwise, leaving enough meat at the crown to hold the thread - it worked just fine. Yes, I removed most of the seeds and core.

The one year I hung them outside, the squirrels got them before I did.

Posted by: heinpe | September 22, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

This is a comment for Jane Black on today's live chat. Could not catch the chat live but I like to peruse it - always. I don't agree with your answer to the poster who asked what to regarding whether her jars sealed or not.

The fact that the jars have "pinged" do not mean that they have sealed properly. If you take a cold unsealed Mason jar with lid & ring that you use to store stuff in your fridge, and leave it on the counter for a few minute, it will ping as the air inside the jar warms up and pushes the lid out. The poster needs to let the jar cools thoroughly after canning (12 to 24 hours) in a draft free place, then test the seal by 1. pressing on them with her finger to ensure there is no movement and that it is neither bulging in nor out AND 2. Removing the rings and grabbing the lid gently bu its edge: if the lid stays on, the jar's sealed.

Jars will ping just because the air temperature inside changes and pushes the lid out or pulls it in (depending whether the air is warming off or cooling off). If the jar is overfilled, it will ping but bits of food will have inserted themselves between the lid and the jar this preventing a sound sealing. One wants to find out NOW (when the jar maybe consumed right way) and not 3 month later. It is dangerous to rely only on pinging as proof that the jars have sealed.

Additionally there is NO NEED to leave the ring on when storing the jars on the shelves. There are actually several good reason not to do it (the most prominent being that's it's easier to monitor that the jars remain sealed. Plus it's encouraging corrosion to leave the rings on. Not good.

I always enjoy the chat. But I did had to send my comment in - as somebody who's been canning for quite a while, canned closed to 200 jars this season (and has yet more to do since tomatoes, peppers, apples etc are still coming) and teaches canning classes.

Sylvie Rowand

Posted by: Sylvie_in_Rappahannock | September 22, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I think part of the problem that the original poster had was using a gas oven. They are not as good at drying foods for two reasons. First, the on-off cycles of a gas oven involve much larger temperature fluctuations as gas flames only burn at one temperature. In a closed oven, most heat is retained in the air and walls, so the fluctuations are smaller (since the gas doesn't need to go on for very long), but an open oven will require longer periods of flame, resulting in your peppers being exposed to higher heats than they would be in an electric oven. Second, gas flames produce water vapor as a byproduct, meaning that the heat coming off the flames is not nearly as dry as that of an electric oven, making it more likely that your peppers will get cooked before they get dried.

Posted by: ermsmurf | September 22, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

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