It’s that time of year, when there’s a chili in the air.
The ristra, a strand of dried peppers commonly seen in the New Mexico area, is a symbol of abundance and hospitality. This time of year, they decorate the walls and doorways of homes and restaurants as peppers air dry on strands of string or twine. Some say drying outside enhances the flavor, but you’ll have to find out for yourself.
To make your own, pick peppers in September and October, hang in a well-ventilated place, like bannisters or rafters, for three to four weeks. Those dried peppers can be rehydrated and used to make chili sauce or add heat to your soups and salsas throughout the winter months. The peppers will retain their color and heat during the drying process. You could even use them to decorate your Christmas tree!
A few tips to get started:
– Use red chilis, not green; commonly used cultivars are New Mexico 6-4 and Sandia
– Choose blemish-free peppers with good stems
– For a 2-foot ristra, you’ll need about 130 pods; for a small one made with de Arbol pods, you’ll need 800 pods for a 1-foot ristra
– To use, remove seeds and stems, rehydrate the pods; put in a pan, cover with warm water for 30 mins to an hour, simmer pods and water for 10 minutes.
source: chilipepper institute.org
Making a ristra:
If you have a large needle and string, it’s easy to thread the pepper stems together with minimal knotting or tying. Make a knot around the first chili, then push the needle through just above the base. For this method, it’s easy to string together 20 or 30 peppers.
If your sewing skills are questionable, but you’re handy with a knot, the method below from Sichler Farms is easy to do in one afternoon. You’ll need string and twine. Only chili peppers with strong stems should be used.
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Naturally September e-magazine