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It is becoming more and more popular for people to look into ways in which they can improve their diet and save money on eating, and one of the best ways to do this is to grow your own vegetables.
Over the last couple of years, with food shortages and people being unable to leave the house to get to the shop, we have begun turning to other methods of sourcing our foods. Whilst the weather was hot, a lot of us got out to our gardens and dedicated some time to growing our own vegetables!
One plant that became noticeably popular amongst my friends was that they were all beginning to grow various types of chilli peppers! Chilli peppers can often grow quite easily in a variety of countries, provided they have enough heat and sunlight, so why wouldn’t you?
The only thing is, whilst chillies grow quite easily, they also begin to grow fast and at high volume, and so we were all left with an awful lot of chillies to use up.
If you have found yourself in a similar position, or even if you have some fresh chillies that you don’t think you will use up, but you don’t want to waste, then this is the article for you! Today I am going to look at the best way to preserve peppers, habanero peppers in particular, by drying them out and giving ourselves the capacity to use them at a later date!
Table of Contents
What are habanero peppers?
Habanero peppers are a rather small, bright orange or red pepper, which is extremely popular among those who enjoy spicy food. Although they are small, they really do pack a punch and so they are one of the most common peppers used in cooking. They sit at around 100,000 to 350,000 SHU (Scoville heat units).
Not only do they hold a strong spiciness, but they also have a lovely fruity flavor as well which can bring an enjoyable taste to your dishes. They are most commonly grown in Mexico, but people grow them all over the world.
Although they are known for their spice, they are not hot enough to burn your taste buds or to overpower the meal, so even if you are not the biggest fan of spicy food, habanero peppers can be handy for adding a little kick where needed.
The entire pepper is not often used, due to its spice. Instead, the pepper is most commonly chopped up and used in things like salsa, salad dressings, or mixed into sauces, it is a particularly popular ingredient in store-bought hot sauce.
How to Cook with Habanero Pepper
Firstly, when doing anything with habanero peppers, you should wear gloves. The juice from the peppers can get onto your hands, and if it ends up in your eyes or if you have extremely sensitive skin, then it may cause you some trouble. You can find out more on how to prevent getting chili pepper on your hands in this article.
Habanero peppers can be used fresh, which tends to be a lot hotter as none of the spice has been burnt off, or they can be sauteed, grilled or roasted – just like any pepper you may choose to cook with!
Habanero peppers are usually paired up with sweeter flavors, like mango, peaches and apricots, to help balance out the flavors. They can also be used in drinks, such as tequila cocktails, a bloody Mary, and you can often find them being used to infuse vodka to give it a hot twist.
Because of their level of heat, they are used in extremely small amounts in both cooking and in drinks. A single, finely diced habanero pepper will be more than enough to spice up your meal. If you go overboard with the habanero, there is a big risk that it will overpower the dish and take away any other flavors you may have been hoping for.
It is important to know whether or not your guests like spice, as habanero could be the ‘be all, end all’ to whether they enjoy your cooking. It is recommended to remove the seeds and pith, as these can hold the most spice and it is easy to go wrong when using them. Stick to the orange or red fleshy part of the pepper and use in moderation!
How to Dry out Habanero Peppers
Because habanero peppers are used in such small amounts, we often find ourselves having to throw away the rest.
The same goes for growing them in our gardens. Once they are ready to use, we are left with loads of peppers but not the high demand we need in order to use them all up! My friends were giving their peppers away to just about everyone they knew, so we had to come up with a solution. How do you preserve habanero peppers?
The best way to preserve your hot peppers is to dry them out. Like any vegetable, habanero peppers have a reasonably short life span and so the best option is to remove the water, as this is the component most likely to spoil them.
Drying out habanero peppers can be done in multiple ways, and to answer the question on ‘what’s the best way to dry peppers?’, well this really depends on the devices you have available!
Using a Dehydrator to Dry Peppers
One of the easiest ways to dehydrate habanero peppers is to use a food dehydrator. The purpose of these is to remove all moisture from the food, although it will also slightly cook your peppers too.
The outer colour of your peppers will become a lot darker and the lack of moisture will slightly take away from the fresh, juicy flavor, alongside some of the spice. This is to be expected though, as drying out any fruit or veg removes the juiciness and therefore some of the delicious tastes!
Your food dehydrator will come with its own instructions and each one will differ slightly. The key is to use a very low temperature and to be able to space your peppers out so that there is good air circulation.
The following steps are a guide to using a dehydrator to dry out habanero peppers, which can work for drying out pepper varieties of almost all types, including the commonly used jalapeno and bell peppers.
Remember to wear gloves when working with hot peppers, and then begin by sorting through your peppers and separating any that may have gone slightly bad or have black spots. These are good for short term use but not so good for dehydrating as they will remain bad.
Next, go on to wash the peppers with cold water to remove any dirt and then thoroughly dry them afterwards to avoid any extra liquid delaying the dehydration stage.
You can then go on to cut the peppers if you desire. Cutting them length ways will help them dehydrate quicker as it will allow the moisture to escape more easily. This also allows you to remove the seeds and membrane, as these hold a considerable amount of heat. However, some people love this and so don’t feel that you need to remove the seeds!
Whole peppers will take longer to dry out, but if you prefer your dried peppers to remain whole then you can cut a couple of slits in the skin of each pepper to help the moisture escape and to help the heat spread inside them more easily.
Then lay your peppers out across the dehydrator tray. They don’t need to be too spaced out, but make sure they are not overlapping as this will block certain moisture from leaving and parts of the habanero peppers will be blocked from dehydrating.
You then need to begin hydrating them at a temperature between 115F and 125F. This low heat helps to slowly dry the moisture without burning the peppers. The dehydrated needs to be preheated to this temperature for about ten minutes before you put the peppers in.
Because they are cooked at such a low heat, it will take a considerable amount of time. You should check the peppers after about 6-8 hours and once they make a crunching sound when squeezed they are ready to go. You can cook for slightly longer but once they develop a flexible, leathery texture they are definitely done.
How to Dehydrate Habaneros in the Oven
If you do not have access to a dehydrator, have no fear! You can simply use your oven in a similar method. Be cautious, as most ovens have a minimum temperature around 200F which means it will be hotter than using a dehydrator and the peppers may slightly cook in the process. This isn’t a problem, it just means you need to be more aware of your timings and keep an eye on them.
Begin by setting your oven to the lowest temperature it will go to and allow it to preheat.
Again, clean the peppers with cold water and remove any peppers that may be slightly out of date or close to becoming bad.
You will need a non-stick pan or tray as you are unable to use oil. Adding any oil will also provide more moisture and so the peppers will roast and soften as opposed to dry out. Alternatively, and possibly for a better result, use an oven-proof grill tray or cookie rack. This will allow the heat to get to all edges of the peppers so they will dry out quicker and more evenly. Make sure your peppers are about an inch apart so that the heat can access them better.
Although drying habaneros in the oven is hotter, it also takes slightly longer. You should expect them to take around 10 to 12 hours, but you should check on them every couple of hours and remove any smaller peppers that may be finished.
A top tip is to leave the oven door only slightly open to allow more circulation and to let moisture escape. This will also help to bring the overall temperature down in the oven giving it an effect more similar to using a dehydrator. If your oven has a fan option, this can also be used for similar results.
How to Hang Dry Habanero Peppers
Many people do not want to have their oven on for such a long time, and do not have a dehydrator, and so people often ask, ‘can you air dry habanero peppers?’
The simple and short answer to this is yes. However, it really depends on the kind of climate you live in. If you live in an arid climate with a humidity below 50% and warm temperatures, then yes, hanging your peppers to dry is an option. If not, you are better off using the oven.
To hang your pepper to dry them out, begin by tying a strong knot of thread around the stem of the first pepper and then go on to use a needle and poke this through each of the other peppers at the base of the stem, linking them all together with a strong thread.
The peppers are quite light, so you can usually fit quite a lot along one piece of thread, but this will depend on the type of thread you use. I would recommend using a fishing line or something of a similar strength.
Once the peppers are all threaded together, tie them in an area with plenty of air circulation and where the air is as dry as possible. This can be near a doorway or outdoors, but in rooms such as the kitchen they will also be fine if there is plenty of airflow.
How to Store Dried Habanero Peppers
Once dried, it is best to store your peppers in a tightly sealed container or jar to stop air getting in. keeping them in the pantry or cupboard is also best to avoid any direct sunlight, they are already dried enough and the sunlight may cause them to begin to lose flavor.
It is important that they are also kept away from any potential moisture. If the peppers or the container gets wet, remove the peppers and allow them to fully dry out again. Moisture in the peppers will prevent them from lasting as long, similar to how they are before they are dried.
You can also grind your chillies down to create flakes or powder and store this in an air-tight container. This can be used in your sauces and meals, however it is best to leave the chillies whole until you plan to use the powder, as the whole peppers will hold their flavor for longer than when they are ground down.
How Long Do Dried Habaneros Last?
Dried peppers of all types will last for up to a year if stored correctly. However, the longer they are stored, the more they will start to lose their flavor and potency. For best results you should use them up within three to six months.
If they do go bad, they are not dangerous to eat. They will not go out of date the same way that fresh vegetables will, but they will become extremely hard and lose their color and flavor, making them quite unenjoyable to eat.
Overall, habanero peppers are a very popular choice in lots of cooking, as they bring a delicious and fruity flavor but also pack quite a punch when it comes to spice.
They are easy to grow yourself, but also easy to buy, however the level of spice in them means that you rarely need to use a lot of habanero pepper in your cooking. This means that for anyone who has bought a bag of them, or has grown plenty of them in their garden, you may have a lot left over.
To avoid waste, you can preserve your peppers by drying them out. This can be done through various methods, but the easiest and most successful is to use a dehydrator. If not, you can use the oven or, depending on your climate, you can hang dry them.
Dried peppers will keep for a long time, however they will start to lose their flavor and their heat over time. You can use dried peppers whole, the same way you would with fresh, but you can also grind them into a powder which can be more useful for cooking in certain situations.
So, if you fancy using habanero but don’t want any to go to waste, then look no further! Simply dry up a batch and you will have plenty of spice to keep you going for up to a year!
How Long Do Dried Habanero Peppers Last and Do Dried Peppers Expire?
Dried peppers can last up to twelve months, however although they do not technically expire, they will start to lose their flavor, spice and color over time, making them less enjoyable.
What’s the Best Way to Dry Peppers?
The best way to dry out peppers is to use a dehydrator, however you can use an oven or potentially air dry them.
Should Habanero Peppers Be Refrigerated?
Habanero peppers should be refrigerated when fresh, however once dried they should be stored in a pantry or cupboard, in an air-tight container.
Are Dried Habaneros Hotter than Fresh?
Dried habaneros will lose some of their heat when dehydrating. The longer dried peppers are left, the less taste they will have. The seeds and membrane are the hottest part of the pepper and this will hold the most spice when fresh.
Can I Dry Peppers in the Oven?
Yes you can dry peppers in the oven at a very low heat if spaced out correctly.