Right about now, peppers of all sizes, colors and shapes are getting ripe in our garden. My wife and I have been enjoying them every way we can, from grilled to roasted, and in salsas and salads. We surely enjoy them a lot while they are fresh from the garden. But the season for them is fairly short here, and it is nice to preserve some of them for use throughout the rest of the year. One great way I like to preserve the peppers is dehydrating.
If you happen to live in an area with a dry climate, you can dry peppers by hanging them up somewhere out of direct sunlight, preferably in an area with good air circulation. In regions with high humidity like ours, a dehydrator is the best way to dry peppers. I set our dehydrator on 135°F, which is the temperature used for drying fruits. It generally takes one to two days to dry the peppers using the dehydrator, depending on the thickness of the walls of the peppers, and how many peppers are being dried.
I usually cut bell peppers into slices before drying. Other shapes can be cut in half lengthwise, or even dried whole. Cutting into slices or pieces will definitely speed up the drying time. How you intend to use them can also help you decide whether to slice them up or leave the whole. If you do slice them, remember they will shrink considerably when drying.
The peppers should be dried until they are leathery and still a bit flexible, but with no trace of moisture remaining. You don’t want to dry them until they are brown and burned looking, as that will destroy many of the vitamins as well as give them a scorched taste. They can be stored in an airtight container, and then kept in a cool dark place or the freezer. I like to vacuum seal them using our FoodSaver, and then store the packaged peppers in the freezer.
And what can you do with the peppers after they are dried? The sweet peppers can be reconstituted and used in any recipe that calls for fresh peppers. I really enjoy them in egg dishes like omelets, frittatas and quiches. They also work well on pizza, where they pair exceptionally well with dehydrated or slow-roasted tomatoes.
The dried hot peppers are great to toss in soups, stews and bean dishes where they add a spicy, flavorful touch. You can either fish them out after cooking, or else chop them up and incorporate them in the dish. But wait, there’s more ways to use them! You can grind up the dried sweet peppers to make Homemade Paprika.
And you can grind up the hot peppers to make Homemade Chile Powder. Or you can crush them into flakes for sprinkling in and on foods.
I hope this has given you some ideas on the many uses there are for dehydrated peppers. Drying peppers intensifies the flavor as well as preserves them for use all year long. And once dried, the peppers are so useful to have in the kitchen!