Habanero peppers are best known for their taste and temperature, but while they are relatively cheap to purchase, keeping them preserved is another matter. Like most fruits and vegetables, habanero peppers have a relatively short shelf life unless you employ an effective method for preserving them. Of the many methods available, dehydration is arguably the best.
By dehydrating the peppers, you remove the one component that is most likely to spoil them over time, water. However, the trick is to dehydrate them in the right way so that you and your family can enjoy the peppers in the days to come.
Methods Of Dehydrating Habanero Peppers
Traditional Dehydration: For centuries, peppers were dehydrated by hanging them outside and letting the sun pull away their moisture. While effective, natural dehydration does have certain issues ranging from the evenness of how the peppers are dehydrated to the buildup of mold or mildew, especially in warm, humid climates. Not to mention that a good rain can set back the dehydration process as well.
Food Dehydrators: Using a food dehydrator is arguably the best method if only because they are suited from properly pulling the water from the habanero peppers. You might place them in an oven on low temperature, but that tends to cook them which will turn the outside a darker color and take away some of their flavor. What you need is a proper food dehydrator that will dry the peppers in an even manner while not cooking them.
How to Properly Dehydrate Habanero Peppers
First and foremost, get a pair of gloves along with eye protection. Whether you are an expert on being careful or not, all it takes is one drop on one finger that touches your eye to make you wish you never heard of habanero peppers in the first place. Gloves will keep the pepper juice from gathering on your fingers and the glasses will remind you not to touch your eyes.
Wash your hands before, during, and after handling the peppers just to be safe. Also, wash the peppers as well to remove any dust, dirt, or other unwanted things from their skin.
Sort: The next step once you are ready is to put the peppers into a large bowl or container and separate the good ones from the not-so-good ones. This means separating habanero peppers that have spots, especially black spots that may be harbingers for mold even after they have been dehydrated. Once you have separated them, toss the rejected ones away.
Cut: With the good peppers remaining, you will need to cut them in half length-wise, so they dehydrate properly. If you enjoy the pith, seeds, and stem, more power to you. However, you can always remove them if you prefer not to eat them. But if you like your peppers hot, then leaving in the seeds will make them even hotter. You can choose to leave the peppers intact, though they will take longer to dry out. However, some prefer to have their dehydrated peppers whole, so that will work as well.
Set Temperature: Depending on the type and brand of dehydrator that you use, it should be pre-heated for at least ten minutes between 113F and 122F degrees. The heat is set this low to prevent cooking while still drying out the peppers. Once the processor has been at that temperature for ten minutes or so, you can put in the peppers.
How Long Habanero Peppers Take to Dry
You have to remember that proper dehydration is slow, taking up to eight hours if not longer depending on various factors. You should check them every couple of hours and note the progress of their drying. It’s tough for the peppers to be “too dry”, so you don’t have to be too diligent. But then again you don’t want to forget about them in the processor.
You can check to see if the peppers are ready by picking one up and squeezing it. If the pepper cracks, then they are dry enough to be removed. If the pepper can be squeezed without cracking, then they need to stay in the processor a little longer. Remember to wear gloves, so you don’t burn your hands or worse, get some hot pepper juice in your eyes.
Dried Habanero Storage
Once the peppers are sufficiently dried, you should set them aside to cool. Once cool, put them into an airtight container and then keep the peppers in a dry, cool place for storage. A few tips on keeping the peppers from spoiling;
– Keep them out of the sunlight
– Use desiccant packets or oxygen absorbers
– Make sure the lids stay airtight
– Avoid plastic bags. Use mylar or put them in Mason jars.
By doing that, you can keep the peppers fresh for up to a year or perhaps even longer. This means that you will have dried habanero peppers to spice up any of your meals.
If you want to reconstitute the peppers, just soak them in plain tap water for about 10 minutes. It will not restore them to their original shape and size, but it’ll be close enough. Dried habanero peppers are easy to handle and cut, so you can size them as you please. Remember, if you want to grind the peppers, use a proper spice grinder and not your coffee grinder. It’s not that you shouldn’t have spicy coffee, but coffee grinders are not made to turn peppers into powder.
Plus, wear gloves if you come into contact with the powder or cut peppers so it does not wind up on your fingers. Wearing gloves is a good idea, although you should wash your hands before and after you cut or grind them. For habanero peppers, you’ll want to be both careful and enthusiastic that you get to enjoy this wonderful food mixed in with your meals.