Drying Jalapeno and Aji Limon into pepper flakes – October 2010

As was briefly mentioned in the end of season garden post. I thought that drying these peppers into flakes would be something that you normally don’t see done with either aji limon or jalapenos peppers. Plus I’m just plain tired of canning this season, so drying these peppers is the lazy way of getting them processed into an end product.

I guess I could go into detail of how I dried these peppers, but its really nothing more then de-stemming the peppers, cutting them into a very fine mince, and then drying them on a screen frame placed over a box fan until completely dry. But for the lack of details in the general process of getting the project done, there are a lot of side notes and lessons learned in getting this done in the most efficient way possible. So onto the side notes.

Side Notes:
1) Remember to wear gloves when working with hot peppers. I was still wearing nitrile gloves when I washed my hands with soap and water. And when I touched my gloved hand to my lips, I got a big flash of heat from the Aji. So this is a fair warming before you start the processing.
2) Without my Cuisinart to finely mince the peppers, I wouldn’t have been able to get it all done in under 3 hours. Also don’t bother using the shredding disc, instead of the normal chopping blade. Since it took longer and produced a larger and uneven mince with the shredding disc, compared to just using the normal blade and pulsing the motor a couple of dozen times. On a funny side note, it wasn’t until after I was done cleaning the machine, that I noticed a low speed button on the Cuisinart. But seeing how I had never used this setting before, it never crossed my mind to enable it when processing the peppers. I guess this is something for me to remember next time I use the Cuisinart, since it might have given me a little more control in mincing the peppers.
3) Also in comparing the dry times of the Aji that were processed using the blade and pulsing the Cuisinart, verse the jalapeno that were processed with the shredding disc on the Cuisinart. The aji dried more quickly and more evenly compared to the jalapeno peppers that were shredded.
4) Another funny thing was that I ended up running out of drying frames when loading up all the jalapenos and aji to dry out. Right now I’ve got four frames that are covered in aluminum screen material, and two frames that need to be covered. So that means that I’ve only got three frames available for drying, since the forth one is used as a cover for the drying stack.
It crossed my mind in the past, to upgrade my drying set-up, but I never saw a compelling reason, until I had to dry out these peppers. Over the last couple of years, I’ve written down a couple of ideas for a more permanent design. So I might actually have to follow-thru this winter in executing it. Since each year I seem to be drying more and more items, without any real capacity to expand. I did get a couple of books from the 1970’s at the last used book fair that I attended, that have homemade food dehydrator designs. It’s about time to start reviewing the designs listed in those books for some ideas for a bigger setup.

Update 10/29/10 @ 11:50pm
The aji are basically dry after a single day in the dryer, but the jalapeno aren’t doing so hot (pun intended), since all the shredded jalapenos are sticking together on the frame, while the aji are flaking perfectly. Another day or two and everything should be completely done. By the way, when I walked into the house the next day after work, it was like getting slapped in the face with hot pepper fumes. The fumes ended up being so strong in the basement (where the peppers are drying) that I had to turn around a couple of times and leave the house, to get some fresh air.

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