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
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