How to preserve Chillies
Drying is a great way to preserve your leftover chillies and there are several ways to do it. Scotch Bonnets, Habaneros and other fleshy varieties tend not to dry very well, unless you have a dedicated dehydrator.
Drying is more suited to waxier chillies such as Birds Eye and Indian Peppers. Traditionally, chillies would be laid out in the sun to dry, giving warmth and ventilation, but this is not always possible in cooler climates.
If you have neither a dehydrator nor a warm climate, the important thing to remember is to keep your chillies warm and dry. Around 25˚C is optimum, much higher and you risk a very brittle product, lower and you risk losing your chillies to mould.
Don't take our word for it. Here's what you said about last year's chilli plants and plugs
First rinse the chillies in salty water to help to prevent mould. Then spread them out on some moisture-absorbent tissue in a warm place such as a greenhouse, warm windowsill or airing cupboard, turning regularly. Store in an airtight container whole or use a coffee grinder to produce chilli powder.
Alternatively, string up your chillies in a Ristra, as pictured right. Either wrap cotton around the stems of numerous chillies to tie in a long bunch, or thread through the stems with a needle and cotton and hang up in a warm, dry place to dry. Ristras originate in Mexico and make beautiful decorations or gifts, fresh or dried.
Pickling works well for most types of chilli, keeping them crisp and hot as well as looking great in their jars.
Take 1lb chillies, remove any damaged fruit, make a couple of tiny slits into each chilli and wash thoroughly in salt water. Mix with 15 peppercorns, 5 bay leaves and 3 tblsp salt and pack into pre-sterilised wide-mouthed jars, to 1cm below the rim.
Heat 1 litre white wine, rice or cider vinegar with 6 tablespoons caster sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is almost boiling. Pour into the jars with the chillies, cool a little and seal. Refrigerate and leave for at least 2 weeks.
Chillies freeze reasonably well, retaining most of their flavour and heat. Freezing is the best way to preserve fleshier chillies like Scotch Bonnets and Habaneros.
To freeze chillies whole, spread them out on a baking tray so they are not touching, freeze and pop into a sealed bag or container. This way they do not clump together.
Frozen chillies, however, do not always keep their shape or texture well with freezing so you may prefer to process them first. Remove the stalks and the seeds if you like (seeds can go a bit brown on freezing but this will do no harm) and freeze in a sealed bag. You can them smash the bag with a rolling pin and use as required.
Alternatively, pack the chopped chillies into an ice cube tray, then empty chilli cubes into a selaed bag to store to make easily measured portions. Keep the ice tray just for your chillies though!