I love color–bright, bold, vivid colors–sunshiney canary yellow, magenta Barbie pink, flashy lime green, and bold Frida Kahlo blue. Mexico bursts with color from its architecture to its textiles to its food. Mexican salsas range in color from bright orange (think habanero) to crimson red (I’m talking about that chipotle taquera salsa.) In my opinion, the most essential ingredient to a mind-blowing, flaming red salsa that explodes with flavor on your tongue is dried chiles.
This summer, I tried my hand at growing certain varieties of peppers in my garden with the ultimate goal of making my own dried chiles. I came across this really amazing organization called Native Seeds/SEARCH that works to preserve genetically diverse crops from the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico regions. They sell non-GMO seeds for corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and a variety of other fruits and vegetables. It is the only seed catalog that I have found that sells seeds for certain varieties of Mexican peppers.
I bought 2 packets of seeds: árbol and mirasol (guajillo). I had no idea if they would even grow in a place with such a short growing season. But, grow they did, and my oh my did they produce peppers!!! Buckets and buckets of peppers!
I planted 4 chiles de árbol and 4 guajillos, and the output has been unbelievable!!! These two varieties of peppers were by far the most abundant producers in my entire garden this summer. The plants have been producing peppers since about mid-July, and they are continuing to produce peppers in mid-October!
As a result of this pepper explosion, I quickly had to learn how to properly dry them. The good thing is, it was really easy to figure out 😉
I purchased the Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator for $66 and got to work. The machine came with 5 stackable plastic trays. It also has the option to adjust the heat setting from 95°F to 160°F.
So, here’s the deal. Find a well-ventilated area to run the dehydrator. The smell of the drying peppers will make you cough if you don’t have some sort of air flow. I placed my dehydrator by an upstairs window and left the window cracked open.
Then, place your fresh peppers in the dehydrator as shown. They really don’t need a lot of space in between them, but you should still make sure they are laying flat. Place the lid on top and set the temperature to 135°F. Plug in the cord and wait 20-24 hours. After this time, check on the peppers to see how they are. Their skin should feel dry but pliable, and you will probably be able to hear the seeds rattle inside. If you feel that the peppers are still slightly moist, leave them in the dehydrator for a few more hours. You do not want to end up with moldy peppers as a result of insufficient drying.
When the peppers have finished drying, store them in a cool, dry place. I prefer to store my dried peppers in a paper bag rather than a plastic one because it allows for any extra moisture to escape.
That’s it! You’ve just made your own dried chiles.
There are many ways you can use dried chiles. One way is to remove the stems, seeds, and veins. (Depending on the recipe, you may end up keeping the seeds, but it will specify if you need to.) If I’m making a basic salsa, I like to toast the dried chiles on a comal or griddle to bring out their flavor. Then, I rehydrate them in simmering water for about 10-15 minutes. I usually leave them sit in the hot water for another 5-10 minutes to soften their skins. Then, I add them to the blender with the other salsa ingredients and blend. You could also use a molcajete to make a more rustic salsa.
If you would like to make chile powder, simply remove the stems and place the chiles (in pieces) in a coffee/spice grinder. Blend until you have a fine powder. Dried chile powders are great for making homemade rubs, and they also go well in soups and stews.
I will be giving away some dried chiles de árbol and guajillo chiles from my garden to one lucky winner! You can participate in three ways:
- Leave a comment below. What is your favorite type of pepper to eat or cook with? Bell, jalapeño, habanero, banana hot, ghost, etc.?
- Leave a comment on Instagram. What is your favorite type of pepper to eat or cook with? Bell, jalapeño, habanero, banana hot, ghost, etc.?
- Tag a friend on Instagram that loves peppers!
You will receive 1 entry for each of the items above. You can earn a total of 3 entries. The contest will be open until Saturday, October 17, 2015 @ 11:59 PM. Winner will be selected at random and notified on Sunday, October 18, 2015.
Winner will be notified via the blog and Instagram and will have 48 hours to claim his/her prize.
*Contest is only open to residents of the U.S. because this item contains seeds that may not be shipped out of the country.*