I have grown a large crop of hot peppers in anticipation of making many varieties of hot sauce. However, I am not able to work fast enough to use all the peppers I have grown to make sauce so some of them will probably go bad unless I find a method of preserving them such as drying or dehydrating them. How do I dry hot peppers?
There are several ways to preserve peppers that you intend to use for hot sauce but drying them is one of the most common. Using a dehydrator or oven may be the quickest method of drying but you can also dry them on the plant.
Before starting the drying process, these are the precautions you need to follow.
The precautions to follow depends on the methods you are using. For instance, if you are drying your peppers indoor, you will need to keep the area well-ventilated. Moist peppers may give off a pungent smell and they also require the air flow to aid in the process. Some of the other precautions you need to take include:
1. Discarding soft, spoiled, or mushy spots.
2. Getting rid of greyish, white, or infected spots.
3. Discarding peppers with a rotten smell.
Difference between drying and dehydrating
Dehydration and drying both remove moisture from the pepper but the difference is that drying is a natural evaporation of solvents that removes slightly more of the moisture. Drying peppers can be done by a simple methods of sun drying the entire plant where dehydration with require a dehydrator of oven.
Dehydration is the controlled method of removing water from a solid. This will involve using equipment and the end result will retain slightly more moisture.If you are using either of the methods leave them on the plant longer until they start to wrinkle and become less plump before you dry them completely.
Using a dehydrator
Using a dehydrator is one of the quickest and easiest ways to dry peppers. Your food dehydrator can dehydrate any fruit and vegetables and are typically cut into 1” sections before drying. A perfect example of such food dehydrator is the Nesco FD – 1018A Garden Master. You can always find any of these products on sites such as eBay or Amazon but the link above is directly linked to Amazon. This method requires setting the temperature between 135 and 145 degrees. The hot pepper should be kept in the dehydrator for about 8 to 12 hours. Meanwhile, during this process, you should always check often to see if some parts have dried out.
You do not need a dehydrator or oven to dry out peppers, but a dehydrator is an appliance that makes dying out your peppers much easier. If you are thinking of using the peppers you grow to make hot sauce then you should invest in a dehydrator.
Drying peppers in the oven
Aside from a food dehydrator, you can dry peppers an oven. A regular kitchen oven will do just fine. However, there is a downside to using this method. It may take longer for the peppers to dry completely depending on the size of the pepper. Position the peppers on a cookie sheet or pan and keep them in the oven to dry out. The oven needs to be set to its lowest temperature. This is usually at the “warm” level or simply put between 120 to 140 degrees. After the peppers have dried and cooled completely you can store them in zip lock bags or grind them into a powder for use in sauces or other recipes. This method of drying peppers is easy to do but can use a lot of energy.
Drying on the plant
You can dry plants that you have grown by leaving them on the plant, pulling the plant roots and all from the ground, and hanging them up in a well-ventilated area. Peppers with a thin wall or thin skin will dry better using this method.
These will have the seeds in them but they should grind down just fine and there isn’t any health related problems you would have from eating them. After you have dried the peppers out completely another step you may want to take is vacuum sealing.
Vacuum sealing the bags will prevent air from entering and will allow the dried peppers to last longer. Any peppers that you have dried and then vacuum sealed will last for years. If you perform the tasks of vacuum sealing correctly, they should last 2 to 3 years.
This would require an additional piece of equipment, such as a vacuum sealer and also the proper bags to support the sealing. These are also available at Amazon and this one from FoodSaver comes with a starter kit.
Does smoking peppers preserve them?
Smoking hot peppers will NOT preserve them as long as drying them or dehydrating them does. Smoking is essentially a slow cooking method and they will only last as long as any cooked vegetable does. Keep them in the refrigerator and they should last 3 to 5 days.
After smoking peppers, you will still need to dehydrate them to further preserve them. This will retain the flavoring but will also concentrate and intensify the smoke flavoring in the peppers even more.
There are many other methods of preserving peppers but if you are growing peppers to make sauce…just make sauce. The vinegar used in a sauce will also preserve your peppers. If you cannot make sauce fast enough there are always other means of preserving your peppers.