This season I have had really good luck growing the Leutschauer Paprika Pepper from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. This pepper is a slightly spicy Hungarian paprika that makes for an excellent dried spice that will bring a burst of flavor to your sauces or spice rubs.
To make dried peppers I recommend using a food dehydrator rather than an oven. Ovens don't typically get lower than 170 degrees, which is a little too hot for dehydrating. I was tempted to try the oven method, but the thought of running the oven with the door slightly cracked for several hours didn't seem appealing to me. I decided it was time to own a food dehydrator because there are endless things coming off the farm that I can dehydrate.
After searching online and reading many reviews, I decided to purchase the Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro. I have used this dehydrator in the past and love the amount of space it has, as well as the adjustable thermostat for a more accurate dehydration process depending on what product you are dehydrating. The other great thing about this dehydrator is the price, which is less than $60 with free shipping if you have Amazon Prime.
This method can be used for any pepper you have on hand - I just happened to have some nice paprika peppers so I started with those. To begin, you will want to work with fresh peppers that are firm and don't have any brown spots or soft tissue. Wash your peppers thoroughly and pat dry. If you are working with larger peppers like paprika, jalapeno, or poblano, it is best to cut your peppers into thin strips so they dehydrate better. If you have small peppers like cayenne or Tabasco you can leave them whole.
Once your peppers are cut into thin strips you can arrange them on the dehydrator trays making sure they aren't touching or overlapping so they dehydrate better. The Nesco dehydrator recommends dehydrating vegetables at 135 degrees. My peppers took about 12 hours to dry at this temperature. You will want them to be be nice and crisp, rather than leathery, when you go to grind them so they grind into a nice powder.
The final step is to use a spice grinder to grind the dried peppers into a powder. I purchased a Shardor spice/coffee grinder and I am very pleased with the results. It comes with two grinding bowls, one for spices and one for coffee. If you want your peppers to be the consistency of red pepper flakes pulse the peppers a few times and check for the desired size of flakes - repeat if necessary. If you would prefer a pepper powder I recommend grinding for about 30 seconds.
That's all there is to it! It's best to keep your pepper powder in a air tight jar in a dark and cool place in the cupboard. Pepper powder should last about 6 months before it starts to lose it's freshness and flavor. Once you taste how amazing fresh pepper powder is, you won't have a hard time finding some delicious recipes to use it well before 6 months has passed.
Written by Corey Wahl
Corey Wahl - director of farm operations at Ronin Farm - Bryan, TX.