I used to have a great set of red chili pepper string lights. They were acquired during one of many Target runs with one of my college roommates and I had them strung up under my desk hutch in our little apartment in Duluth. That string of lights followed me when I moved to Hastings for my first job. They hung in my kitchen for a short while, before I moved them to my office, where they were used on a regular basis to decorate for lock-ins and mission trip fundraisers. I'm not sure if I left that string of lights behind when I left that job, or if they ended up in a garage sale during one of the moves that followed, but sadly, I no longer have that great set of chili pepper lights.
But now I have something even better: actual red chili peppers strung up under the hutch above our kitchen sink!
These are Cyklon Peppers (a Polish heirloom variety) that I started from seed back in March. Unlike some of us, they have been absolutely loving the extra hot weather this summer and have been setting on beautiful 4-5" long shiny peppers that ripen to a bright cherry red color. This is an heirloom variety that is traditionally used for spices because it has thin flesh that is perfect for drying, so I've been dedicating my early harvests entirely for that purpose.
Drying whole chili peppers is super easy. All you need is a needle and thread, a dry, warm location with some sunlight to hang them up, and a few weeks for the drying process:
- After harvesting, gently wash the wash the peppers and pat dry with a clean tea towel.
- Keep the pepper whole (no trimming necessary) and make sure that the pepper is free from blemish (if there is damage to the pepper, it will likely continue to spoil around the blemish, so those peppers are best to be trimmed and processed fresh, if possible).
- Using a threaded needle, push the needle through the stems of the peppers to string them together.
- Leave an inch or two between the peppers so air can circulate on all sides.
- Hang the string in a warm, dry location, preferably where there is some direct sunlight.
I tied a loop on one end of the string, which I attached over the hardware on one end of the hutch above our kitchen sink and I left the other end just as it is and simply wrapped it around one of the knobs on the hutch until the string of peppers was securely suspended above the sink. With this set up, I have been able to easily re-thread the needle and continually add additional pepper to the same string as they ripen.
As the peppers dry, they start to darken in color and the skins of the pepper will start to feel tougher and more leathery. When they are completely dry, they will feel more brittle, but still be somewhat pliable. Actual drying time will vary, depending on the size and water content of the pepper as well as the drying conditions, but you can expect each pepper to take around 2 weeks (sometimes a little longer) to dry completely. When dry, the peppers can be stored in an airtight jar or freezer bag. They will store in this manner for quite some time, but as time goes on, they will gradually lose their potency. For best results, use dried peppers within 6 months to 1 year.
I am anxiously awaiting the day that my string of chili peppers spans one end of the space above the sink to the other. In addition to being functional, it's been a festive addition to our kitchen decor for the summer. Stay tuned later in the season for some great ideas on how to use your dried chili peppers!
Labels: peppers, preservation