Preserving for later – dry your own chillies

Chillies are a very versatile vegetable which adds flavour to many dishes. It has several health benefits and can e.g. help relieve problems with blood pressure. Chilies also contain several antioxidants and capsaicin.

Chillies are very easy to grow. When harvest time is over, you can dry it to enjoy chilli flavours in your food year round.

As a producer, you can dry chillies to provide the market with little red gems throughout the year. Sell them whole, in powdered form or as flakes to customers in airtight packaging.

PREPARING YOUR CHILLIES

The chillies chosen for drying should be completely mature and must have changed colour completely. Do not use chillies with cuts, spots or blemishes for drying. Use those immediately.

Remember to always wear protective gear when working with chillies, and remember not to touch your face or eyes – you will be sorry!

Before you start, wash your chilies to remove any dirt.

Always use clean, unblemished chillies without any mould or cuts for drying. Leoadec – Wikimedia Commons
Always use clean, unblemished chillies without any mould or cuts for drying. Leoadec – Wikimedia Commons

SUN-DRIED CHILLIES

  • Cut the chillies in half, length wise, with a sharp knife and remove the seeds.
  • If you plan to sun dry your chillies, be aware of the weather forecast for your area. The ideal weather conditions should be very hot and dry. A humid climate might lead to mouldy and soft chilies.
  • Put your chilli halves, skin side up in a single layer, on a flat surface like a baking tray or drying rack.
  • Place the chillies in direct sunlight. Alternatively put on a windowsill. Keep free of dust and insects.
  • Dry the peppers in the sun for a minimum of 8 hours per day, and turn it once or twice in between.
  • Cover the chillies overnight with a clean cloth to keep insects away. If you need to continue to dry the chillies, remove the towel in the morning when the sun comes up.
  • It can take up to three days to properly dry chillies this way.
  • The chillies are ready when it breaks easily between your fingertips. Remember to check for any mouldy or moist parts before storing your chillies.
  • Store the dried chillies in airtight containers.
Dried chili – you can leave in the seeds for some extra heat. Yamen – Wikimedia Commons
Dried chili – you can leave in the seeds for some extra heat. Yamen – Wikimedia Commons

OVEN DRYING

  • When using a normal oven, preheat to 80°C.
  • Preheat fan ovens to 40°C.
  • Slice and deseed the chillies in the same way as with the sun-dried version. Place the chillies cut side down on your baking tray, in a single layer.
  • Place the baking tray in the oven.
  • The chillies will take about 6 to 8 hours to dry out, but the time depends on the size and thickness of your chillies. You can turn the chillies once during the drying process, but it’s not necessary. The chillies are ready when they start to turn brown.
  • You can also open the oven door slightly to allow moisture to escape.

HANG DRIED CHILLIES

  • You can use any type of thread, including cooking, polyester or nylon. The length of the thread depends on the number of chillies you have.
  • There are two ways to fasten your chillies to the thread.
  • Tie the thread to the stalks of the chillies and leave as little space as possible between the chillies.
  • You can also use a thick needle to thread the stalks together.
  • Hang the chillies in a well ventilated area, or place a fan nearby to allow for some airflow. Allow to dry for no less than three weeks.
  • The chillies are dried when you can break them between your fingers.
Hanging your chillies takes up less space, but it will also take longer to dry out. Francisco Anzola – Wikimedia Commons
Hanging your chillies takes up less space, but it will also take longer to dry out. Francisco Anzola – Wikimedia Commons

REMEMBER

Always store your chillies in an air and moisture tight container, away from direct sunlight. If you don’t, the chillies might lose its bright colour.

Always check for moist parts after drying and before you store the dried chillies.

The seeds can be dried in the same manner to be used in food.

WHAT TO DO WITH DRIED CHILLIES

Grind the chillies to make your own chilli powder or chilli flakes.

Rehydrate in hot water, before using in a recipe calling for chilli.

MAKE YOUR OWN CHILLI POWDER

Mix 6 to 7 chillies, 7 ml of cumin, 5 ml of dried origanum and 2 ml garlic flakes.
Blitz together in a food processor until a fine powder forms.

Chili powder- The dried chilies can also be used to make your own chili powder. Badagnani – Wikimedia Commons
Chili powder- The dried chilies can also be used to make your own chili powder. Badagnani – Wikimedia Commons

This article was compiled from Wikihow – Drying Chilies, and Lekker vir later PLUS, from Annette Human, and published by Human and Rosseau.

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