How to Make a Hot Pepper Ristra

Or, more accurately, how I made a hot pepper ristra*. Because, of course I can't do it the normal way ;)

I grew 4 cayenne peppers plants this year, and wanted a way to both dry and store them. The traditional way of making a ristra uses a needle to thread the string through the pepper itself. I have issues with that:

  • I don't have a needle large enough** for the twine I'm using, and I'm too cheap to buy one.
  • Even if I did have a needle that large, I'd have to put it somewhere for 11 months of the year, and then remember, every August, where I put it.
  • My peppers are not ready to pick all at the same time. So, if I used the needle method, I'd have to either keep threading it every time I had more peppers to add, or leave it on the string, which just seems like a bad idea to me ;)

So I decided to try my own method, just by tying the peppers onto the string.

Supplies: hot peppers (I only dry cayenne peppers this way - I'd have to use the dehydrator for larger peppers, due to the humidity), heavy string (I used garden twine), and scissors.

1. Tie a loop into the end. This will be what you use to hang up the resulting string.

2. Start a second knot in the string, close to the loop.

3. Snug the knot up as much as you can, while still leaving room for the pepper stem. This helps, since if you leave the knot too big, trying to hold the pepper in the knot while tightening it at the same time is hard. At least for me. You might be more adept ;)

4. Put the stem of the pepper into the knot, and make it as tight as you can. Note to self: leaving the stems longer helps.

5. Start a second knot, close to the first.

6. Add the second pepper, and tighten the knot.

7. Lather, rinse, repeat. If anyone is looking closely, you'll see I changed the order of the peppers: I had to try this a couple of times to get the spacing right. Too close, and the peppers radiate out in a circle (also, spacing the peppers a bit further apart increases air flow and helps them dry). Too far apart, and it just looks odd. Keep the extra twine on the string, and add more peppers as they ripen.

8. Hang to dry and store. Then eat throughout the winter, in pasta sauces and chili and pizza and...

No, it's not Martha Stewart good, but it works for me, and no needle required!

*Fancy pants name for "string of dried peppers".
**I do have a large-eyed darning needle, but it's plastic, and I don't think it would hold up to the peppers. Besides, I don't know where it is...

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