Field Notes

How to Dry Your Own Chilies

With pepper plants in gardens and farms across the country starting to get heavy with fruit, it’s time to start thinking about preserving the glut of chili season. We’ll be making plenty of dishes and condiments with our fresh peppers, from pico de gallo to harissa. But we’ll also be holding some back to dry for later use.

If you’ve never dried your own chilies before, take heart--it’s easy--and there are a few ways to do it.

Hang-Dry

If you’ve ever harbored fantasies of going full-on pioneer, then this will bring you one step closer. You’ll need peppers that have large sturdy stems, some fishing twine, a large-eyed needle, and two sticks (to buoy the pepper string). Start by tying the end of a length of fishing wire around the center of one stick. Then, working from largest to smallest, string the peppers through the center of their stems, close to the point at which they meet the fruit. End the string by tying the fishing wire around the other stick. Hang in a dry, cool place until the peppers darken and their skins shrivel. Pack in airtight plastic bags or jars and store until ready to use.

Oven-Dry

Set your oven to its lowest temperature setting (200° or less) and arrange the chilies on a baking sheet (or, if you’re drying larger chilies, directly on the oven racks). Cook, with the oven door cracked (or on a convection setting), until the skins of the chilies are wrinkled. Turn off the oven and let cool completely in the oven. Pack in airtight plastic bags or jars and store until ready to use.