Written by Jill Ettinger
Dried peppers intensify in heat and flavor and can last indefinitely. They capture the warmth of summer, which we find ourselves desperate to recall in the frozen grips of February (what can ironically seem like the longest month!). Dried peppers can be used to season a number of dishes from soups and stews to curries and dips; and drying them yourself with a little sun-charging is easy and satisfying.
While you can dry large bells, the best peppers to dry are the little hotties. Anything from seranos to poblanos make a wonderful dried chile.
There are two easy ways to sun dry peppers. For both, you want to find a spot outside that gets a good solid stretch of maximum sun exposure.
You can slice the peppers, but keeping them whole gives you a nicer look that's easier to store and reduces the risk of bacteria.
Method 1: The Flat Dry
Inspect and wash the peppers, discarding ones with soft spots, strange odors or any other signs of bacteria or mold. Very lightly coat the peppers in a high heat oil such as coconut. Lay peppers flat on a large tray or cookie sheet making sure they're not overlapping—each pepper should be flat on the tray. Cover the tray with a thin screen mesh like you would use in growing sprouts. It can take your peppers two weeks to dry in the sun. You can rotate (flip) them every few days.
Method 2: The Hang Dry
Using inspected, cleaned and slightly oiled peppers, string them together around the stems (did you all of a sudden just remember that you've seen these hanging in restaurants and markets for years?), making sure to leave plenty of room between each pepper for the air to flow. Hang these in a high sun area with good airflow. Check often to make sure they're not molding or being eaten.
Dried peppers will rattle and show no signs of moisture. They will be brittle but not brown or crumbling. Store in an airtight jar or crush them in a food processor to use as a chile pepper seasoning. They make great gifts too!
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