I love peppers! All kinds, many kinds. I bring many pepper plants inside to overwinter. Some, I cut down for bonchi (making small pepper trees like bonsai) and others just to have ready to go back out the following year. For all my hotter varieties, I make hot sauce, or dehydrate and grind them down into a pepper powder that I use for charcuterie, or for just sprinkling on food.
Really simple stuff. The big thing is, when you harvest your peppers, don’t just let them sit around. First thing, give them a good wash while they are still firm. From here, they need to dry out. So, it doesn’t make sense to toss them on the counter to have them start drying only to have to come back and wash them. Once they are washed, sit them on a clean towel to soak up most of the water. Roll them around if you like. Move them off the towel after a day or so as you don’t want the moisture in the towel against the peppers any longer than necessary.
Move them to a sheet of cardboard, or I’ve used shoe boxes and lids before for smaller quantities. Don’t stack them. All should be laying flat to dry. Here is where you could leave them for a couple days if you didn’t have the immediate time. Otherwise, move them right into your dehydrator. The idea is to get them cleaned, and dried for the dehydrator before any mold starts inside. For the extra-paranoid type, you can cut the peppers in half. They will dry faster and if you are not using a dehydrator, then I especially recommend cutting them in half. See some safety tips below regarding handling the peppers.
Once you have them thoroughly dried out, watch out! It doesn’t take much to get it airborne. We’ll be grinding the peppers in the next step, and here too is where a respirator (or doing it outside) can be beneficial. For every cup of dried peppers, add a teaspoon of course salt… kosher or sea salt is fine. I used an apple wood, smoked sea salt this time, and it added an incredible smoky taste to my carolina reaper powder. Put all in a spice grinder or food processor, and grind until it has the coarseness you want. If you want flakes, grind only a little. For a powder grind a little more. It only takes a second! You can turn this dry mass of peppers into powder in under 5 seconds in a spice grinder, so grind a little and look at it… then grind more.
As you can imagine, there is a cloud of pepper powder in your grinder at this time. When you open it, it will be everywhere, trust me. Either do it outside, or have on a mask and eye protection. Serious, this can burn you up if even a little powder gets in your eye, on your face, or in a lung! Basically, you want to get it all out of your grinder and right into a jar with a lid on it as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
That’s it, enjoy!
A few safety tips on handling peppers of the hotter variety
Make sure you have the right gear for handling peppers. Don’t think your less of a person if you wear rubber gloves, eye-glasses and even a face-mask. Serious, I’m a pretty tough pepper-eater, but cutting up the carolina reapers (just in half) the other day had me choking. Open the windows or turn on your stove exhaust fan and cut them near there. I don’t recommend a fan as that blows it through the house and has everyone else choking too. This has happened more times than once in my house, even with my best effort to prevent it.