I have had a fabulous crop of chillies this year despite trouble getting them to initially germinate back in the spring. I ended up with 9 plants plus one ornamental chilli I had overwintered. So now I have a lot of chillies to deal with. I usually freeze them which is fine for many recipes but sometimes I want chilli powder or flakes and for that I need to dry them. I have air-dried them before but I find they collect a lot of dust so this year I have had a go at oven drying my crop.
It is a very simple process. Simply cut the chillies in half and lay them cut face down on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking tray (I used a pizza tray). If the variety is a very hot one you may want to wear gloves when cutting them and certainly don't rub your eyes or allow any juice from them to squirt into your face. Whether you leave the seeds in is your choice - the seeds are where you find most of the heat so it depends how hot you want your chilli powder/flakes.
Heat the oven to 80ºC (slightly less for a fan oven) and allow them to dry for about 5-8 hours. Leave the door slightly ajar to let the dam air escape. Smaller ones will take less time but you will know when they are ready when they have turned slightly brown and can easily be snapped between you fingers. Once dry switch off the oven, continue toleave the door ajar and leave them in the oven until they are cool.
You can then either store in a moisture tight container out of direct sunlight or blend them down to flakes or a powder and store the same way.
Scoville Heat Units (SHUs)
This is a scale to measure the heat of chillies. An ordinary bell pepper has a SHU of zero and the hottest chilli thus far bred is the Californian Reaper with a SHU of over 2 million. This year I grew:
- A mild chilli bought in France, illustrated above (The French are not generally good with spicy food)
- A ornamental chilli of unknown heat but not overly hot
- Purple Haze - 75,000 SHUs
- Piri Piri - 250,000 - 300,000 SHUs
I am yet to cook with the 2 hotter ones!
Whilst in the UK I found a Garden Centre selling off packets of seeds at 50p each. I was in a bit of a rush to get the ferry home but grabbed a good selection of chillies to try next year including:
- 2 mixed packs of varying sizes, colours and strengths
- Praire Fire - unknown strength but the packet gives a heat unit of 9 out of 10 where as Tabasco, below is 6.
- Tabasco - 30-50,000 SHUs
- Padron - a very mild chilli overall but every now and then you get a hotter one (up to 10,000 SHUs)
I might also try and overwinter some of the Purple Haze and Piri Piris.
Do you grow chillis and if so what is your favourite. Or do you find they just blow your socks off?