How to dry chillies, well, sort of…

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This afternoon I decided to take my abundant chilli plant in hand, and instead of picking one or two for a recipe here and there, snipped off all of the ripe and ready red ones that I could see – 42 in total! They are clearly enjoying being in the ground instead of in a pot on my window ledge!

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I was initially torn between drying them and roasting them for oil, but decided to dry and crush this crop, as I only have one shelf in the fridge for me and it’s currently hoarding several different types of cheese, so space is tight. The cupboard, however, is quite empty – as usual!

I’ve never dried chillies before – so winging it, I snipped the green stalks off, and rolled each one between thumb and forefinger to pop the seeds out, or as many as I could coax out! I popped them into a nearby glass – as I am sure I will find a use for them, perhaps even trying to grow some more chilli plants!

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When de-headed and de-seeded, I put them on a crisper tray (It’s amazing what kitchen equipment other people have got, I found it in a cupboard and had to Google ‘baking tray with holes in’ to see what it was. I have never claimed to know everything!) and left them in the sun for a few hours to start to dry out.

When it became apparent that that would be a very long process, unsuited to even the hottest of English days, at 5pm this evening I brought them in, and popped them in a 180C oven for 20 minutes to crisp. The smaller ones took less time – when they crumble easily in your hand, they are good to go.

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I took them out of the oven, popped them into a trusty teacup, and chopped into them with my kitchen scissors. And coughed and swore as I breathed in chilli dust – so please be careful when doing this! Chilli dust up ones big Greek nose is not an experience that I recommend…

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Anyway, when they were done, in bigger flakes than you’d get in the supermarket and a darker red too, I popped them into a spice jar, and took a picture. There. Dried chillies. I’m not sure if it’s how you’re meant to do it, but there you go.

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And I am astounded that it took 42 chillies to fill a teeny tiny jar. I’m not going to measure out in ‘pinches’ to see whether it’s more or less efficient than using fresh ones, but it will be interesting to see how long it lasts. And it’s certainly more efficient than buying a packet of supermarket chillies, or letting the fruits on my abundant chilli plant go to waste.

Now, what to do with the next crop… And what to do with these seeds and tops kicking around? Dry them out and use them for oil, or steep in vodka for ‘chilli essence’? Answers on a postcard, chilli lovers…

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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19 Comments »

  1. seeds – re plant them next year (personally I’d have dried them with the skins as well for more heat)
    tops – in oil – with a few seeds

    next time you do it – in the oven on the lowest setting – 50 degrees for 3 gours – youll get a better flavour and wont run the risk of ‘cooking’ them … works with tomato’s brilliantly as well…

  2. Well done for drying your abundant crop of chillies. Will have to pass on your info to our son-in-law as his chilli plants are in flower so hope he does as well as you.

    • I was going to suggest this, you can chop up the next batch and freeze them in an ice cube tray with a tiny bit of water. Then pop out the ice cubes and put them in a bag, ready to freeze the next lot!

  3. hi Jack,
    I have dried a few just in a dish by the stove (on back ledge of stove). did well.

    also, saw some with stems on, and braided together (like one of those long onion or garlic braids), and hung in kitchen. dried well and looked nice.

  4. I would definitely welcome some general advice on growing your own herbs (and chillies) indoors – for complete idiots who have never grown anything before, please 🙂 Any sites I could go to for beginner’s guides? TIA

  5. Hello, Jack!

    Hope everything is OK for you and bookwriting progressing well? 🙂

    About the chillies: here (South of France), we thread them on a string like a necklace and hang them to dry,

    Like this:

    We place them either outside in the wind and sun, or in a dry place inside, until the are bone dry (2 or 3 weeks).

    Then we grind them (seeds and all, but not green stem) in the blender.

  6. Hi Jack – Can’t believe your chillis are Ready to pick so soon, ours are still green! Last year we opened ours out & de-seeded them then dried them on the grill til they were brittle & crushed them up to go into jars like you did. I also froze a load, but you need to chop them up whilst they’re still a little bit frozen otherwise they’re a bit too soggy.
    Eventually I realised we’d never use all the chillis we had in the freezer, so I got them out & dried them too. We got two small jars full, and we’re still using them almost 12 months on – they’ve got a lot more kick then shop-bought chilli powder, so you don’t need as much. Bargain.

  7. Next time, just dry them along with the pods. Will make it spicier, but that’s the point of chilies, right?

  8. Just found your blog today……very heart wrenching and inspiring. Wish you all the best….. Re the hot peppers…….in Hawaii here we tend to just pick the peppers and put a lot of them in a bottle of vinegar….can add a clove of garlic too for taste. Then when you need to spice up your stew or plate of food you just add some of the liquid or a chopped chili if you really like it hot. aloha

  9. Use the seeds and stems for pickled onions! It’s a tradition in our house to have them at Christmas but they have to be made early enough so they can get flavourful

  10. love hearing all your comments about what you do with chillies. I make spanish ristras (like the French person) and them either grind them up as powder/flakes or use the whole one chopped up in spicy curries etc. Yummm. love my chilliies. Great page and thanks Jack!

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