This year produced a good crop of chillies, far more than could be eaten while they remain fresh. In order to preserve the chillies for year round cooking, I decided to dehydrate them to crispy dried chillies.
In this instructable I use the hot dry air produced by monitors and TVs to slowly air dry the chillies. There is not really any need for a food dehydrator or drying cabinet when electrical devices are already pumping out hot air. Air vents are usually hidden behind devices, and dissipate heat in a gentle waft. An infra-red thermometer demonstrates how hot and useful this wasted energy can be.
Dried chilli can be rehydrated in hot water, or crushed and sprinkled into sauces. The large cayenne chilli peppers shown here are traditionally ground to make cayenne pepper, the orange spice used in hot food. I also dry some small fiery Apache chillies.
Step 1: Harvest Some Ripe Chillies
Removing the already red chillies will promote new growth. Flowers should continue to form as long as the weather is warm. Even under ripe chillies will rapidly change colour to deep red once picked and dried.
Step 2: Find a Source of Hot Dry Air
You'll want to find hot air with a temperature of between 40- 55 degrees Celsius.
Other devices to try;
- The long thin vents above a LCD or Plasma TV screen
- Cooling fins and air vents above a fridge or freezer
- Computer air vents, especially the power supply vent
Step 3: Lay Out the Chillies
Allow enough space for air to flow freely between the chillies. There is no point placing chillies on plastic areas where air does not exit the device, also try to avoid blocking the vents completely. It's probably best to dry a few chillies at a time rather than piling up 2 kg on top of a device and it overheating.
If you can't dry everything at once, keep fresh chillies in the fridge until there is space in the hot air.
Step 4: Drying Time and Turning Your Chillies.
Allow about one week for the chillies to dry. My monitor is turned off at night, so probably only produces hot air for about 15 hours each day.
Every couple of days the chillies can be turned. This is a good time to inspect them for crispiness. If some are drying faster than others, move them around a bit. Ensure that all sides have dried evenly.
Step 5: Store Those Nice Dry Chillies
What to do with dry chillies;
- Rehydrate. Place a dry chilli in warm water and leave for 20-30 minutes. You can then chop it up as you would a fresh one.
- Crush the dry chillies into flakes. These are great for sprinkling into sauces or onto food. The super hot epithelial membranes will have dried onto the seeds. It's up to you whether or not to leave the seeds in your flake mixture. Flakes can also be used in bird feeders to keep squirrels away. Birds are insensitive to the heat, so happily eat the nuts and seeds. Squirrels experience the same heat sensations that we do.
- Powder the dry chillies for your own cayenne pepper seasoning
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