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Bell peppers are loved by many for their taste and versatility in dishes. However, one big problem with them is that they can get quite expensive when they are out of season, to the point where some people avoid cooking with them when their price inflates. There is a simple solution to this and that is dehydrating them, this lets you store them and use them all year round, or instead, you can make a mock paprika powder from your dried peppers.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is a bell pepper?
- 2 Why dehydrate a bell pepper
- 3 How to dehydrate a bell pepper
- 4 What to do with dehydrated bell peppers
What is a bell pepper?
Bell peppers, also known as sweet peppers, are a vegetable commonly found in supermarkets and other grocers, which look like a bell. They come in a large variety of colors but are most notably found in red, green, and yellow. There is not much difference in taste, however, the green bell pepper has had less time to mature than the red bell pepper so it will taste slightly more bitter.
Bell peppers are available all year thanks to imports from countries such as Mexico, but this makes them more expensive during the off-season months as they have to be imported. Bell peppers can be grown locally through the months of July-November and are surprisingly simple to grow on your own in your garden. After all, nothing beats homegrown.
Bell peppers originate from countries with warmer climates such as Mexico and South America, and once imported to Europe and Asia they became insanely popular and were farmed whenever possible. Because of having to import the peppers, they were quite difficult to get hold of during off-season months. So people had to find ways to preserve them, and one of the methods of preservation was dehydration.
Why dehydrate a bell pepper
There are many reasons as to why you would dehydrate a bell pepper, not all of them are to do with preserving the bell pepper. Instead, dehydrated bell peppers can be used to make some really interesting meals or seasonings.
Preserving a bell pepper
A dehydrated bell pepper stored in the correct airtight container will last a lot longer than the non-dehydrated alternative. This is great if you accidentally buy too many, or if you harvested a lot of them while they were in season. Instead of worrying about using them before they spoil, you can instead dehydrate and enjoy some dried bell peppers all year round. It is worth noting that dehydrated peppers can be rehydrated and used properly again, so you are not sacrificing anything when you start the dehydration process.
Dehydrated bell pepper flakes
One of the best uses of dehydrated bell peppers is to use them as an ingredient and seasoning. By this, I mean that any dried bell peppers can be ground up using a grinder or a blender into some dried bell pepper flakes, which are great to use as a seasoning or garnish. It is also a great way to introduce the flavor of bell pepper into a soup or stew without having to prepare it first, the powder can be simply introduced to the soup and it will work.
How to dehydrate a bell pepper
The dehydration process is quite simple so long as you have the correct tools for it. For this, you will need a dehydrator and it is preferable that it has plenty of trays so that you do not run short. These can be purchased online for a decent price, but the ones with a larger capacity will be a bit more expensive.
It is worth mentioning that larger pieces will take longer to dehydrate, so if you intend to have every piece be done at the exact same time then a mandolin or a similar device used for cutting will come in handy. Unless you’re an expert chef who can cut them into equal pieces by hand.
Preparing the bell pepper
There is not too much in the way of preparation, but it is still necessary for you to prepare them before attempting to dehydrate them. Firstly you are going to want to wash your bell peppers. It does not matter if they are store-bought or if you grew them at home, it should be common practice to wash all vegetables you use in cooking.
After you have washed them, it is time to remove the core and seeds. This can be done using multiple methods, whatever works for you is best. Many people like to cut the top off of the pepper, and then cut all of the ribs that are connecting the core. After this is done you can scrape out all of the seeds and either discard them or use them in whatever way you please.
Now is the time to start cutting your fresh peppers. As previously mentioned, the bigger your pieces are will affect how long they take to dehydrate. So if you want all of your pieces to be done at a similar time then you will want to use a chopping device to perfect the sizes. Alternatively, you can just cut them into strips and wait for all of them to be done. Whatever method you choose, make sure you have the pieces small enough to fit on your dehydrating tray. Once cut, lay some parchment paper on the mesh on your dehydrating trays and scatter your pepper pieces over it. There is no need to be completely neat and organized with this step, as long as they aren’t stacking on each other then it will be fine.
Dehydrating your bell peppers
This step may be slightly different depending on the dehydrator you are using, but as long as you follow the instructions that came with your machine then you should be fine. Make sure the trays are placed correctly in the dehydrator, and that all other steps have been followed properly. The previously mentioned parchment paper is optional, but fresh bell peppers are likely to stain your mesh dehydrator trays and the paper will prevent this.
Once your pepper-covered trays are secured in the dehydrator, you can turn it on. Set the temperature to 125F and let it be. This is the most time-consuming step but thankfully you do not have to be attentive. You can watch as many films as you like, or maybe leave it on overnight and get a good sleep in. The process takes between 6-10 hours and has many factors that decide the time it takes, such as the hydration levels of your bell peppers beforehand, your home’s humidity level, and the strength of your machine. Tightly packed peppers will also take a little longer, just keep an eye on it.
How to tell when they are properly dehydrated
You are most likely wondering how to tell when they are done. This is surprisingly easy to judge, and if you take them out early there are no consequences like with other foods. For testing, you are going to want to let your bell peppers sit out in the open so that they get to room temperature. After this, grab a piece and simply try to break it apart. It should snap like a breadstick. If it does not snap then it needs to go back in the dehydrator for another hour at least. After this, periodically check them every hour and repeat this test. Once they are all snapping perfectly and are dehydrated, it is time to condition them.
How to condition dehydrated bell peppers
Conditioning is the act of ensuring that your dehydrated bell peppers all share the same humidity level, for bell peppers, and other vegetables, it is about 10% humidity that is ideal.
To condition your bell peppers, you are going to want to place them in a jar of any type. A mason jar is ideal for this. Fill the jar with your peppers until it is two-thirds full. You can mix and match your colors and have red bell peppers with dried green bell peppers if you fancy, but you can also separate the colors if you care about how it looks.
Once you have your two-thirds full jar, simply shake it once in the morning and once at night. During this process, you check for any signs of humidity such as water on either the inside of the jar or on the pieces of pepper. Continue this for 7-10 days to make sure that they are entirely dry and the humidity is correct. After this, you can store them normally in an airtight container.
If there are signs of water then you will have to place them back in the dehydrator for a few hours and you can then repeat the process again. If there is any mold starting to form then the batch is ruined and you need to dispose of them and sanitize your jar and its lid.
How to store bell peppers
Once you have your dried peppers, you may be wondering how to store them. As long as they are in an airtight container then they will be fine. However, the optimal way to store them is inside of a paper bag, that is inside of a vacuum-sealed plastic bag. This removes all air from the environment which is ideal for them, the paper bag acts as protection to stop the sharp edges of the peppers from piercing the outer bag and causing a leak.
What to do with dehydrated bell peppers
Once you have your stock of dried pepper pieces, there are quite a few ways in which you can use them. They are really versatile once in this dried state as you can use them for flavoring in many different recipes, as well as rehydrating them and using them as normal peppers again.
Rehydrating bell peppers
If your recipe calls for bell peppers, then it is best to rehydrate them first unless the dish is a soup or a stew. To rehydrate the bell peppers you can either soak them in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes or leave them in a bowl of water in the fridge overnight. Both methods work and will leave you with sweet bell peppers in abundance.
Bell pepper powder
Another term for bell pepper powder is “mock paprika”. To make this you just need to finely grind your dehydrated bell peppers in a grinder, or mortar and pestle. A coffee grinder can be used for this if you do not have a specialized herb grinder. This powder can then be used in many ways such as:
- Meat rubs
- Used in soups for extra depth
- Coloring and slightly flavoring dough
- Sprinkled on foods like popcorn or corn on the cob
There is a general conversion rate so that you can judge how many peppers you need for mock paprika. The rate of conversion is that one sweet bell pepper will make half a cup of dehydrated bell peppers, and this in turn will make a tablespoon of bell pepper powder.
How long does it take to dehydrate bell peppers in a dehydrator?
The general amount of time will be between 6-10 hours. This time varies depending on the humidity of your house and the strength of your dehydrator.
Can you rehydrate bell peppers?
You can. All it takes is 30 minutes in a bowl of hot water, or overnight in a bowl of water in the fridge. Make sure the bell peppers are fully submerged.