How to dry chillies the Italian way
For most Italian families, the garage is the hub for many gatherings and activities, such as making tomato sauce and curing meats.
Hanging in Nonno’s garage was not only homemade prosciutto crudo and salami, but also dried chillies… big, long strings of them. In southern Italy, the symbol of the chilli is used for protection from the evil eye (malocchio), caused by people envying you or your family.
A lot of people truly believe in the evil eye – Nonna certainly did – and you will often see chillies hanging at the front door of a house or on the balcony.
When chillies ripen, they do so in abundance. As The Hungry Gardener I make chilli oil with the excess by cutting them into small rings, pickling them overnight in brine and then putting them in a bottle of olive oil – this is great drizzled over a plate of pasta to give it extra zing. However, you will struggle to use them all fresh, so why not dry them to use at a later date?
How to dry chillies
- Fresh chillies, with stalks
- Cotton thread
- Use fresh chillies in good condition, without blemishes.
- Once your chillies are dry, use them whole or chopped in cooking. You can also make chilli flakes: place the dried chillies in a food processor, chop finely and then store the flakes in a jar.
- Tie the two ends of the string together to form a large loop, then snip the needle off. Hang up in the kitchen or a well-ventilated spot to let them dry out. If you want to keep it Italian, hang them in the garage.
- Thread the chillies by piercing them through the bottom part of the stem and carefully pulling them along the string. Try to leave a little space between them, as they can go mouldy when they rub against each other.
- Double thread a needle with a long piece of thread.