How to Dry Chile Peppers, Plus How to Make a Ristra - Horticulture

How to Dry Chile Peppers, Plus How to Make a Ristra

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If you have an abundance of hot peppers to harvest from your home garden, you can easily preserve them once they're picked by drying them. Before you begin the drying process, blanch the peppers by boiling them in water for three to four minutes and then immediately submerging them in ice water. This step boosts their flavor. Pat them dry and then proceed.

Tabasco peppers ripening in the herb garden at the US National Arboretum in October.

Tabasco peppers ripening in the herb garden at the US National Arboretum in October.

If you have a food dehydrator, it will make easy work of your chile peppers. If you don't have a dehydrator, you can use your oven. Wash the peppers and slice them in half lengthwise. Arrange the halves on a baking sheet so that they are not touching each other. Bake them at 135 to 150 degrees, stirring occasionally and checking often to remove peppers that are done. Keep the oven door slightly open for air flow. Drying peppers in the oven can take several hours. Store the dried peppers in glass jars once they have cooled.

A fun and easy way to dry a lot of peppers is to make a ristra, a hanging bundle that serves double duty as a pepper drier and a decoration. Abundant harvests of chiles were at one time dried only by laying them out on the ground in Mexico and the American Southwest, but this made them vulnerable to birds and insects. The ristra came about as a way to avoid these problems, but it has evolved to also serve as a symbol of welcome, luck and good health.

A ristra is a bundle of peppers hung to dry. It's easy to string together a simple version at home.

A ristra is a bundle of peppers hung to dry. It's easy to string together a simple version at home.

To make a simple ristra, thread a large needle with sturdy string or twine knotted at the end. Pierce the green stem or cap of the first pepper and draw the thread through to the knot. Do not push the needle into the fruit itself, because that can lead to rot. Continue stringing all of your peppers and then hang the rostra to dry in warm, airy location. Within a few weeks the peppers will be thoroughly dried and you can move the rostra to hang in the kitchen or wherever you like. Remove peppers to use as needed by simply snipping the stem or cap just below where you pierced it.

For another method of stringing a ristra, plus info on chile cultivars and a chile sauce recipe, see this pdf from New Mexico State University.

Related recommended reading:

In The Farm Girl's Guide to Preserving the Harvest, homesteader Ann Accetta-Scott covers canning, freezing, dehydrating and fermenting anything you pick from your garden.

Learn all you need to know about choosing, growing and using chile peppers in The Complete Chile Pepper Book by Dave DeWitt and Paul Bosland.

Image credits: 

Pepper plant by Mr.TinDC/CC BY-ND 2.0

Ristras by Christopher Holden/CC BY-SA 2.0