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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Drying Chilies

Ozarks Gardening
Jim Long

Drying Chilies

“Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden.... It is sad that Nature will play such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart,”  a quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne in The American Notebooks.

I feel like that sometimes, too. I dread the night when the garden must die. In mere hours it goes from lush and green, to a deadly shade of brown. The last of the string beans hang like socks hung out to dry. The hot chilies turn into tiny deflated balloons, hanging where they grew.

I gathered about a half bushel of hot peppers before the frost came. I grew 18 varieties of chilies in all, plus 5 plants of the ghost (Bhut Jolokia) pepper. Most had begun producing peppers again after the drought passed, but it was still a smaller pepper harvest than I would have liked.

Once the peppers were picked from the plants, I brought them indoors. With scissors, I cut the stem end off of each pepper. With the larger, more fleshy ones, I also split those in two. I learned years ago that the drying time for chilies can be cut in half if the peppers are split open for air flow.

All the peppers went together. The ‘Yummy Orange’ (a sweet pepper), some Jalapenos, Big Jim, Trinidad Scorpions, Trinidad Spice and some of the Bhut Jolokias, all went in together. Once the stem ends were off and slits cut, the peppers went into the food dehydrator. It takes 3 days on fairly high heat to dry them, a bit longer for fleshy ones.

Once the peppers are dried to total crispiness, I put them in gallon zip plastic bags and put a new batch in the food dehydrator. Over and over I repeat the process until all of my chilies are dried. Then I put on protective glasses and a dust mask and process them in small batches in the food processor. I’ll have several quarts of fine pepper flakes (seed and all) for my cooking this winter, and some to give away to my pepperhead friends.

To see photos of the peppers I grew and the food dehydrator process, check my garden blog: You can also see photos at the blog for this newspaper: Happy gardening!

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