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Peppers to Paprika

paprika1Well our gardening season took a long time to finish up. The peppers just seemed to hang there and not turn red (or yellow or whatever color the particular peppers were meant to be), but finally we got enough ripe ones or mostly ripe ones that I decided that we were tempting fate (i.e., a frost) here if I left them on the plants any longer. So, this week, I tore up all the pepper plants and hung them upside down in the greenhouse (this will ‘mature’ the peppers a bit, let them give off a bit of moisture and some of them will get more ripe) and then yesterday, the DH and I started to process the sweet ones for paprika.

I love paprika. Actually, I loved smoked paprika a lot more but we were a bit short for time so I did not have a chance to set up the smoker and smoke the peppers before we processed them, so we will have to be happy with regular paprika. The process to do this is simplicity itself. Wash the peppers, dry the pepper and crush them up. How hard could it be, right? So, in more detail:

Wash the peppers – the photo at the top is of the peppers, after we’ve washed them well, opened them up and taken out the seeds. One of the issues with this is that you want all the pieces of pepper, at the end, before you crush them, to be evenly dry. And that is very, very dry. And peppers do not want to grow evenly thick in the walls. The tops and bottoms of peppers are usually thicker than the walls are and then there are the membranes where the seeds set up housekeeping. The way to deal with this is to do the following:
1. Cut up the peppers into strips about 1″ wide.

2) Using a sharp knife with a longish blade (I find paring knives to be too stiff in the blade to do this; a slicing knife is better), flatten the strip of pepper, inside facing up, and using the flat of the blade, run it down the surface. This will even out the surface, get rid of the membranes and so on and the pieces of pepper will be mostly the same thickness all the way through so that they will dry evenly.
paprika23, Slice up the pieces of pepper into thin sticks – Mine ended up between1/8″ and 1/4″ wide. Then, using either your oven with cookie sheets (set the oven at the lowest temperature you’ve got or if you have a gas oven, just use the oven pilot light) or a dehydrator, put thin layers of the pieces of pepper on them and leave to dry (temperature for dehydrators is 145 degrees F). You’ll need to leave them overnight. In ovens, you’ll need to stir them up frequently to make sure they do not overcook since usually the lowest temperature available in an oven is greater than 145.

paprika34. When the pieces of pepper are super-crispy – like potato chip crispy; you’ll be able to snap them between your fingers – unload the trays and using some sort of food processor (I used our kitchen blender), run the pepper ‘sticks’ through to pulverize them into powder. This photo was taken last night – the pieces of pepper have lost a lot of moisture but are not super-crispy yet.

paprika45) You will know that your peppers are cry enough, literally, if you can crush them into powder between your fingers. You want no moisture at all; otherwise, the processor will gum up and you won’t get paprika powder which is what you want.

6) Finally, after all the growing and work, we have paprika. Now you will notice that the color is not RED, like commercial paprika powder. The reason for that (check all the photos) is because I did not have very many red peppers to work with. The flavor on this is not quite the same as commercial paprika – theirs is a bit more spicy. I could probably have achieved the same result with either using a different pepper or perhaps adding one spicy pepper into the dried pepper mix. paprika5 I’m really excited about this project for a lot of different reasons. First and foremost, we actually got big red peppers on the plants. Considering what a horrible spring we had, the fact that we actually got peppers was almost a miracle. Second, the process worked exactly as planned, so we really got dried paprika! The plan now is to seal it up in a glass jar and put it someplace dry and cool.

Anyone have experience making paprika too? What peppers did you use for it?

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