Our last article on drying chilli peppers covered the air drying method whereby you hang the chillies on a string and leave them to dry naturally in the air. This time round instead of hanging the chillies we will be rack drying them instead.
When we say rack drying, what does that actually mean? Well drying chillies is basically simply a matter of laying them out in a warm area so as to allow them to dry slowly. While you can lay them out on virtually any tray or even a cloth sheet in the sun, I’ve found that using a wire rack that allows air to circulate around the chillies results in a better outcome.
Why rack day?
As with everything in life, there are both advantages and disadvantages to choosing to rack dry your chillies over hanging them. The obvious advantage is in the amount of time the process takes, rack drying time will normally be measured in days where hanging can take weeks or even months.
As for the main disadvantage, well, that’s got to be labour intensity. When you hang a string of chillies to dry you can pretty much just leave them alone to dry in their own time. Rack drying requires a lot more attention, be it to bring the rack in at night if you are sun drying them or just monitoring the temperature if you are using an oven. You need to pay attention, if you don’t, well bad things happen. Just look at the picture for an example.
How do you rack dry chillies?
It couldn’t be easier; all you need to do is find a wire rack. I use a plain old cake cooling rack but any other kind will do so long as the holes are small enough that the chilli will not fall through. Next, simply spread the chillies over the rack, preferably so that they have a little space between them to allow air to circulate.
Next, you just need to find a place to let the chillies dry. There are a lot of options here ranging from a nice sheltered sunny spot outside right through to the shelf of your oven providing your oven can maintain a steady low temperature.
In fact, just about anywhere is fine so long as the position is fairly warm, dry and has good air flow. Being left out in the sun is good so long as the spot is reasonably sheltered from the wind and any pests that might see the chillies as a nice snack.
In our house, the best option is to sit the wire rack on top of a small column heater that we have in the living room. The heater never gets to a high enough temperature to damage the chillies but is just hot enough to accelerate the drying process.
One thing to keep in mind though is that the spot you pick will determine how much attention you need to pay to the chillies as they dry.
What do I mean by this? Well if you were to choose a spot in the sun outside, you’d have to watch the weather, look out for pests and bring the chillies in at night. If you’re using the oven, you have to remember not to preheat it for cooking before taking the chillies out. The results of forgetting to do this can be seen above.
Anyway, assuming everything goes well with the drying process, over time you should start to see the chillies shrink, wrinkle up and get lighter as the water is driven off.
After a few days or up to a week later, you’ll be able to tell that they are completely dry when they crack or snap rather than bend. At this point it’s time to put them in an air tight container for storage and use at a later date.
That’s all there is too it really, this method is a lot less fiddly than trying to thread or tie a string of chillies, it’s a lot faster to dry but does require that you pay the process more attention. Which way is best? Ultimately your individual circumstances will decide. For me, the season determines which method I choose. In summer, hanging the chillies makes more sense, in winter a rack is far more convenient.
Total time: Up to
Recipe By Martin, Flavoursome Delights