Although you can buy a fancy food dehydrator to dry your own food, there are a number of foods that can be dried in a more low-tech manner. Herbs, such as mint and basil, are probably the easiest to dry. Because they are thin and have low water content, they will dry at room temperature fairly quickly. I lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and put them inside an oven that is not turned on. To avoid mishaps, I put a sticky note over the oven control knob to remind everyone not to turn on the oven without removing the herbs. The note usually says something like, “Do NOT turn on!!!” The herbs are dried out and ready for storage when they crumble between your fingers. Store dried herbs in a jar with a lid. I usually don’t crush them before storage, however, because the aroma and flavor will dissipate more quickly after crushing.
Smaller peppers can also be dried at room temperature, particularly cayenne
peppers, which have very thin skin. The thicker the skin, the more problematic drying can be and the more important it is to hang them up rather than to attempt to dry them on a pan or countertop in a single layer. Jalapenos, for example, are more likely to mold than dry out if they are not hung with good air circulation on all sides.
To dry peppers, tie a string around the stems and create a long rope of peppers. Hang it up out of the way where it won’t collect too much dust.
This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life.
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