Always take safety precautions when handling hot chili peppers. With a Scoville rating of around 600,000, habaneros pack a punch. The capsaicin inside the chili will cause redness, burning, and discomfort when it comes into contact with skin.
Wear gloves and avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, or bare skin. Eye protection is also helpful if you are cutting chili peppers because the capsaicin can become airborne.
You can dry peppers in three ways:
- In a dehydrator
- In an oven
- In the open air
The first two options will take less time but require a bit more preparation. In warm and dry climates, drying chilis in the open air is a simple and practical technique.
To Blanch or Not to Blanch
Blanching is a process used by cooks and gardeners to cease enzyme activity in a fruit or vegetable. It prevents the fruit from decaying and preserves its texture and flavor when the fruit is frozen, canned, or dried.
Peppers do not require blanching to stay firm and flavorful. It can contribute to better flavor and color in dried chilis and will kill any potential contaminants on the skin of the fruit. It is up to you whether to blanch peppers.
Dehydrator or Oven
Wash fruits and discard rotten and mushy peppers. Habaneros shorter than one inch in length can be dried whole. Cut larger fruits into halves, slices, cubes, or any shape you desire.
Spread the peppers in a single layer onto the dehydrator racks. Set the machine at between 135-145°F (576-62°C). It will take 8-12 hours for peppers to dry.
If using a conventional oven, spread peppers on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Set your oven at it’s lowest possible temperature ideally below 150°F (65°C). Check on them to make sure they do not turn soft which indicates too much heat. Crack the oven door to lower the temperature.
In The Open Air
Leave habaneros whole when drying in the open air. Use a needled to thread a string through each of the pepper stems. Tie knots to secure them in place. Leave plenty of space between the fruits for air flow. Hang them out of the sun in a dry location with a breeze. Open air drying takes up to a week or more.