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By Dave DeWitt and Paul W. Bosland
Drying is the oldest and most common way to preserve pepper pods and works well for most peppers—except for the very meaty ones such as jalapeños, which are smoke-dried and called chipotles (see below). To dry peppers, select those that have reached their mature colors, or are just starting to turn. If they are picked while still green, it is very likely that it will never turn the mature color. Avoid any pods that have black spots, because these will mold or rot. On dry days, the peppers can be placed on metal racks and set in the sun. Placing them on a surface that collects heat, such as a car hood or roof, accelerates the process. They can also be hung individually on a clothesline. Another method to use is a home dehydrator—just follow the manufacturer's instructions. Jalapeños and several other chiles will dry well in a dehydrator. Cutting the thick-fleshed chiles in half, or into several pieces helps to speed up the process. Some of the larger growers use forced convection solar dryers, which reduces the time for sun-drying by 65 percent.
Dehydration also works for fresh New Mexican or poblano peppers which are first roasted and peeled (either green or red), and then placed in the sun to dry. Lay long strips of the peeled pods on nylon window screening, cover them with cheese cloth, and place them in semi-shady location with good air circulation. The more humid the climate, the more sun that should be applied to the drying pods. This process makes chile pasado (chile of the past, see below), which will turn an unappetizing dark color, brown or almost black. However, when the chile pasado is rehydrated in water for about 30 minutes, it regains its green or red color. One ounce of this chile pasado is equivalent to ten to twelve fresh pods.