Hot Pepper Flakes & Powder

Did you plant some hot peppers and suddenly end up with more than you can cook, freeze, pickle, make into hot sauce or give away?  Consider drying some to make a hot pepper powder that tastes fresher than anything you’ve ever had before.  Cayenne peppers are the most popular pepper to use because their thickness lends itself well to drying and also pepper flakes, but you can use others too.  You can even mix and match different dried peppers to make something that’s just right for you! 

Follow these simple steps to create a tasty, home made hot pepper powder:

  • Where gloves and DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE! - Hot peppers are hot.  They will burn your hands, face and leave you feeling like you were hit with mace if they get into your eyes. 
  • Figure out how much hot pepper you want to make. Drying peppers reduces the mass by about 4x.  So, if you want 4 ounces of dried pepper, consider starting with 16 ounces of fresh pepper cuttings.
  • Wash and dry your peppers so they're nice and clean.
  • Cut off the stems and slice your peppers lengthwise (unless you plan to air dry them, as explained below).
  • Most people remove the seeds and placenta, but you don’t have to. The placenta and seeds can get in the way when grinding, but it is a personal decision.  And, your pepper powder will be hotter (perhaps too hot for some) when you include the seeds.
  • Place your peppers on a tray, leaving some space between them to allow for heat and air flow to dry them appropriately.
  • Dry your Peppers:
    • Use a Dehydrator if you have one. Set it to 125°  Your peppers could be dry in 6-10 hours, or they make take 24-48 hours depending on what peppers your drying and how many there are.  Make sure that they are dry and stiff before removing them.  They should crack when bent, or else they won’t grind well in the next step.  If you’re drying with the seeds in the peppers, you will want to place something below any racks that have holes in them, to catch the seeds.
    • Use an Oven if you don’t have a Dehydrator an oven will work in a pinch, but the product may suffer because ovens don't often operate at low enough temperatures and air circulation is less optimal.  This can lead to some unwanted browning and cooking of your peppers, but we make due with what we have.  Use a tray with small holes or slits in the bottom (like a cookie drying rack) to increase air circulation, but make sure that your peppers won’t fall through as they shrink while drying.  If you’re drying with the seeds in the peppers, you will want to place something below any racks that have holes in them, to catch the seeds.  Set your oven to 120°F if you can, or the next lowest setting (often 160-200°F) if you can’t.  Check on them every 15 minutes or so, and make sure your peppers are dry and stiff before removing them.  You may want to remove those that dry first so that they don’t burn from being in the oven too long.  They should crack when bent, or else they won’t grind well in the next step.
    • Air Dry your peppers in a sunny window if you’re feeling adventurous and you live in a warm, dry environment. You can use a needle and thread to poke holes in your peppers and string them through before drying them.  Consider cutting a slit in the side of each pepper, or cutting the tops off to help them dry and prevent mold or mildew.
  • Grind your peppers in a food processor to leave spicy flakes behind, or a grinder if you are ok with a fine powder. Now, whatever you do, don’t open your grinder for about 5 minutes, or you may be stuck breathing in hot pepper powder that gets into your airways and eyes.  Let those hot pepper flakes and powders rest, and then open the container carefully.  You may want to consider covering your face with a mask or damp towel before opening.
  • Now, store your dried pepper flakes or powder in a dry container where they will not succumb to mold from moisture, and use it for up to a year on your favorite foods.

That’s it. Wash your hands carefully with soap and water when you’re done.  Keep your hot pepper flakes to yourself or better yet, share them with friends and family.  You might just find that you’ve found a fun, new hobby.

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