This year my pepper plants aren’t doing well. I’m not sure if it was the weird spring weather that stayed cold longer than normal or something I’m doing wrong. Whatever it is, the plants are stunted. They look healthy, but small. I’ve managed to harvest a couple of Jalapenos and a handful of small Cayenne peppers.
Luckily, my dad’s pepper plants are doing great this season, so he sent me home with a ton of peppers this weekend. I ended up with a dining room table full of Jalapeno, Cayenne, and Banana peppers. Now it’s time to move to get them preserved before they can go bad.
Dehydrating is the easiest way of preserving peppers, but it limits their uses later. They can be used for cooking or as a seasoning, but not really enjoyed by themselves. I always like to keep a good stock on hand for uses in chili and stew recipes, so several pounds of this batch are getting dried. Dehydrating peppers is a pretty simple and straightforward process.
Peppers have a pretty tough skin that seals moisture in, so each pepper needs to be pierced or sliced so they can dry evenly. For thin peppers like the Cayennes I make a slit along the length of each pepper. For thicker peppers like the Jalapenos, I simply slice them in half along the length. Once all the peppers are sliced, they get loaded on the trays of the dehydrator. Unless you have a very well ventilated spot inside, I recommend running the dehydrator outside. As peppers heat up and start to dry, they turn the area around them into a pepper spray gas chamber. Usually in 10 to 12 hours, everything is dried out well and ready to store. I use Mason jars to keep them moisture free. That allows them to keep for years.
Some basic tips for dehydrating:
1. Thin items dry much faster than thick pieces.
2. Peppers, onions, and other foods can put off very strong odors while drying.
3. If you dehydrate outside, make sure the dehydrator is protected from animals and birds.
4. Some items can impart their flavor to others if dehydrated at the same time. Don’t dry onions or peppers with your apple chips!
5. Check your food every couple of hours. You can’t really over dry most items, but no sense in running a dehydrator longer than needed.