Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Harvesting Cayenne Peppers

My son Mark is a big fan of HOT food, so last spring
he planted cayenne pepper seeds.
He had to move in late May, so he brought the seedlings to me
to babysit and I fell in love with my grandpeppers!
I lovingly nurtured them into this enormous
planter of red hot glory!
I ended up with more than 200 peppers.
The peppers were supposed to grow two to four inches long,
but some of mine were 10-12 inches!

My grandpeppers were so red and gorgeous,
I wanted to harvest them in a way we could use
them for cooking.

I decided to dehydrate them and
crush them into hot pepper flakes.
I harvested in mid-September when the peppers had
gotten a bit wrinkly.
I used scissors to clip them from the plants
keeping a bit of the stem.

I washed them with warm water
while they were still intact.

Then I patted them down with a big towel
until they were dry.

We were in the midst of a 90-degree heat wave,
so I spread the peppers on a table outdoors
to sun dry for a day.
This isn't necessary, but it got the drying process underway.

Then I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper and laid out many
of the larger peppers and some small ones and
baked them in my convection oven at 185-degrees.
I did NOT cut open the peppers because I didn't want
that HEAT spreading through our house.

Then I put the rest of them into my food dehydrator and
plugged it in on the back porch.
I didn't want too much pepper smell indoors, so
this method worked great!
I had four layers of peppers.

I wanted to compare the dehydrator
with oven drying.
The oven worked faster, but I felt the dehydrator
maintained the rich color better.
I checked every hour and removed any peppers that
were at the brittle stage for crushing.
It took between 5 and 18 hours for them to dehydrate...
the big peppers took the longest.
They were ready when they were no longer leathery...
but brittle, so I could crush them.
The red pepper on the right is freshfrom the vine.
I simply squeezed the peppers between my fingers
and if they crackled...they were ready.

I donned rubber gloves because I figured the hot oils
and seeds from inside the peppers could burn my skin or worse,
I would accidently rub my eyes.
I started by cutting the stems off the top and putting the
dried peppers into a large zip lock bag.
This got tedious, and I found it was much easier and faster
to break the stems off with my fingers...and I
ended up not using the gloves and I did not have
any problems. 
Made sure I washed my hands well after this process.
Next, I used my meat mallet to crush the dried peppers
right in the zip lock bag.
This didn't do the job completely,
so I whizzed the crushed peppers a few times in my food processor.
Lordy, the dust cleared my
be very careful breathing around the
finished product if you use the food processor.
The result:  Beautiful, fragrant, colorful
crushed red pepper flakes!
Definitely NOT the bland flakes you find
on the table at the local pizza parlor!
I bottled some up in shakers for
Christmas gifts.
Of course, my son will be getting
a nice big bottle! 
Such a FUN and exciting summer project.