Drying Produce: Simple and Easy

Reader Contribution by Anna Twitto

Dried hot peppers

Because I love doing things as simply as possible, drying is probably my favorite way of preserving food. It’s easy, efficient and low-cost, especially if you do sun-drying. Although many people love their food dehydrators and find them very convenient, drying can be also done in a regular kitchen oven.

Herbs are one of the easiest things to dry. Simply cut a good-sized bunch, wash it thoroughly, tie by the stems and hang to dry — outside if the weather is sunny, inside if you have frequent rains or live in a very humid climate. In a few days, depending on the weather and humidity level, you should have a bunch of perfectly dry herbs ready to be stored in a tightly sealed glass jar or plastic bag. You can keep them as leaves for tea or crush them into powder for seasoning.

This year we had a bumper crop of hot peppers, which aren’t the kind of vegetable you use in large quantities, so I dried some of the excess. To dry a batch of hot peppers, first cut them lengthwise and remove the seeds. Careful — wear gloves while handling, because those little capsicums can be treacherous. Place the peppers on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper.

If drying outside, cover the cookie sheet with metal wire, cloth mesh or anything else that will keep birds and insects away but still let sunlight get to the peppers. Place in direct sunlight and turn peppers over every few hours. This process may take several days, depending on the amount of light, degree of heat and humidity.

For oven-drying, place the cookie sheet with the peppers in the oven and turn it on a very low heat. Remember, you don’t want them to be roasted — you just want all the moisture to evaporate. Keep the peppers in the oven, turning from time to time, until they are quite dry and brittle.

At this point, your dry pepper slices can be stored in a tightly sealed jar, where they will keep for a long time. You can also pulverize them in a food processor and make your own hot pepper powder, which you can likewise store in a jar. This powder can be used for seasoning various dishes as is, or made into hot paste or sauce with some salt, fresh or dry herbs and olive oil.

The same principle can be applied for drying tomatoes — slice them if they are big, or dry them whole if they are cherries — and many other crops.

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna’s books are on Amazon. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blogRead all Anna’s Mother Earth News posts.

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