We have had bumper crops of hot peppers from the gardens this year. Thus far, we have made smoked hot pepper sauce as well as pear salsa, and we’ve given away gallons of peppers to a friend who ferments his own hot sauces.
As the heat and humidity of summer increased, many of our garden vegetables gave up or were harvested. The potatoes, cabbages, onions, collards, green beans and cucumbers of spring are gone and we are left with the hot-weather tropical survivors, like cassava, sweet potatoes, okra, angle gourds – and lots and lots and lots of hot peppers.
Cayenne pepper is good for your circulation, your digestion, and for making food taste amazing. Especially when homegrown and ground fresh. After tasting the last round of hot sauce I made Rachel asked, “did you add sugar?”
No! You can taste a definite sweetness, but it’s the sweetness of homegrown hot peppers that have had plenty of micronutrients and lots of sun. Our dried peppers are deliciously sweet and hot, which may be surprising to those who have only tasted factory red pepper, which tends to be mostly spicy and a bit bitter.
To make your own homemade red pepper is easy, provided you have dehydrator or another way to dry your peppers. Here in humid Lower Alabama, we can’t use the sun to dehydrate our foods. It’s hot enough, but the relative humidity just makes things rot. This is a great place to make compost but not a great place to preserve foods with solar energy. If you try to dry produce here it usually just rots and molds, so we rely on our Excalibur Dehydrator instead (here is a similar 9-tray model on Amazon).
I cut the tops off the peppers and put them whole in the dehydrator, then run them on the fruit and vegetable setting for a day. We don’t bother coring peppers or removing seeds. They’re fine when kept whole – no need to worry about extra processing work. At the end of dehydrating, we have a nice bunch of beautiful, brightly colored dry and crunchy peppers.
I taste-tested one of the dry peppers and it was spicy and wonderfully sweet and fruity. Perfect! Note that we also threw in a few homegrown habaneros. I like it hot!
To grind my dried peppers, I use an espresso grinder I got from the thrift store for a few bucks.
Just smash peppers in it up to the brim, put on the top, then hit the button, checking occasionally to see if the peppers are completely ground to dust.
NOTE: When you open this thing, an invisible cloud of pungent pepper essences will fill the kitchen and cause you to sneeze and your eyes and nose to run. This is natural and should not be feared. Just roll with it, knowing that your sinuses are being detoxed.
This is what well-ground red pepper looks like:
I get a few tablespoons of red pepper every time I fill the espresso grinder. It took me a half-dozen or so grinds to finish the peppers in the dehydrator and almost fill a repurposed peanut butter jar with the distilled goodness of a red-hot Alabama summer.
Ground red pepper is excellent in chili and dusted on deviled eggs. It’s also good for making cayenne tea when you wish to stop a persistent headache. If you have circulation or heart problems, it’s also supposed to be good for keeping your vessels open and your hearty healthy. But most of all, it’s just delicious and we love it.
If you want to make crushed red peppers, just run your peppers through the dehydrator and then smash them. They’ll crack easily into flakes when fully dry.
This isn’t the first time we’ve made our own ground red pepper, and it won’t be the last. It’s a wonderful way to preserve a glut of hot peppers from the summer garden.