Let the sun work
- Red Pepper Flakes
It has been so hot these days – but while I retreat indoors with the fans working overtime, I’ve been letting the sun do some work! Drying hot peppers to make pepper flakes!
Red pepper flakes are whole, red, hot peppers of varying degrees of heat that have been dried and crushed to bits of pepper and seeds. Drying peppers is an excellent way to preserve the season’s bounty of hot peppers. It’s effortless. It stores easily and lasts an extremely long time. It can be used widely in many dishes. And, if you’re a farmer or a home gardener, who plants hot peppers, you could do a brisk business at your local market by packaging your homemade pepper flakes. Or, just make the pepper flakes and give to your family and friends as gifts.
Red pepper flakes are used in many cuisines, most notably in Italian cuisine, Cajun cuisine and really, any cuisine that uses hot peppers such as our cuisine, Chinese, Indian etc. Granted that we are more accustomed to using the pepper in its fresh form and as a condiment (pepper sauce), the red pepper flakes offer another way to use hot peppers. As you know, I have a weakness for hot peppers of all varieties and every time I go to the market, I always buy more peppers than I need. I’m attracted to the sheer beauty of peppers – the shiny skins, various shapes and the riot of colours! But I digress.
I can’t always be bothered with making pepper sauce and have recently taken to freezing the peppers whole and dropping them into the pot at will. However, I find that drying them and making pepper flakes, gives me the flexibility to add as little or as much heat as I’d like to my food when cooking. For example, sometimes I just want the hint of heat in a dish but I would have to cut a whole pepper just to get the tiny bit I need. Most of the time if I cut a whole pepper, that pepper does not get used, it rots and has to be thrown away – ugh waste! I hate to waste! I don’t have that problem with the pepper flakes – a pinch here and a pinch there and I am good to go.
Depending on where you live, you probably get a variety of hot peppers and all can be made into pepper flakes. You can do them by variety, meaning you will make a batch of habanero flakes, or cayenne flakes. Or, you can opt to make a super hot blend. In other words, you have a pepper flakes blend that includes various varieties of hot peppers! Talk about heat on heat action! You know what, you can even take sweet peppers and make them into pepper flakes! The key is to label each batch and variety of flakes so that you don’t mistake and use one for the other.
Are you ready to make some pepper flakes?
Here’s what you will need: –
● Lots of sunshine (use your oven on a low temperature if you’re not in a tropical environment)
● A couple of sheet pans lined with foil
● A pair of gloves
● A paring knife
● A food processor or a rolling pin
● A large plastic bag, preferably with a secure zip/seal
Here’s what to do: –
1. Put on your gloves
2. Remove the stems from the peppers (if they have any)
3. Cut the peppers in half (if you are using bird peppers, Thai chillies or wiri wiri, leave whole)
4. Spread the pepper in a single layer on the lined baking sheets and place in the sun. Dry the peppers in the sun for 3 days or until they become dry and brittle. If your peppers are any colour other than red, you will notice that they will change colour and become pale and tan. That’s okay
5. During the 3-day drying period, bring in the pans in the evening and return them to the sun the following day
6. If you decide to dry your peppers in the oven, you will want to do so by setting your oven to a low temperature: 120 – 140 degrees F and let the peppers dry overnight or until dry and brittle
7. Once dried, toss the peppers into a food processor and pulse until it becomes small flakes
8. If you are not using a food processor, then add the dried peppers to a plastic bag with a zip seal and using your rolling pin, crush the peppers until they become flakes
9. Store in an airtight bottle or in zip bags, label the bottles, containers or bags and keep in a cool place. I keep mine in zip bags in the fridge and freezer.
10. Use at will