Crushed red pepper flakes are integral to many cuisines, including Italian and Chinese. While you can buy commercial crushed red pepper, making it from home yields a superior spice. Homemade crushed red pepper opens up a world of possibilities. Select particular flavors, heat levels and even flake sizes. Once you learn how to make homemade crushed red pepper, you’ll never want your spice cabinet to be without at least one variety.
Select a variety of peppers for your crushed red pepper mix; any type of red pepper will work, but the one you choose will greatly influence the heat and flavor of your spice. Select red jalapenos, cherry peppers or red bell peppers for a mild spice. Pick cayenne, habanero or bird’s eye peppers for medium to intense spice. Choose two or three types of peppers for a more complex flavor. Taste the peppers when in doubt; if you enjoy eating a type of red pepper raw, use it.
Rinse the peppers thoroughly with cool, running water. Discard any peppers with bruises, mold, cuts or other blemishes.
Place the clean peppers on the tray of a food dehydrator or on a baking pan. Arrange them in a single, even layer. Follow the instructions on the food dehydrator or set your oven to the lowest setting and bake the peppers.
Check the peppers every few hours. Remove the peppers from the dehydrator or oven when they are dry and crisp; depending on the type of pepper, this could require as much as 48 hours or as few as five hours.
Remove the stems from the dried peppers. Place the peppers in a bowl and discard the stems. Keep the seeds with the peppers unless you would like to reduce the heat of the spice. Discard as many seeds as possible to reduce the heat; shake out the seeds or crack open the pepper to remove them.
Fill a food processor or mortar with the dried red peppers. Crush or process the red peppers until they turn into flakes. Stop as soon as the flakes are a size you desire. Allow the dust to settle before opening the food processor to prevent burning your lungs and throat. Repeat until all of the peppers are crushed.
Transfer the crushed red pepper to jars -- empty spice jars work well -- and seal them with lids. Store the jars of crushed red pepper in a cool, dry place.
Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds to remove the peppers' spicy oil.
- If you use an oven to dry the peppers, prop the door open with a metal spoon or spatula if they begin to burn. This allows some of the heat to escape and lowers the oven’s temperature.
- Skip the drying process by purchasing whole, dried red peppers from the grocer to save time.
- Wear food preparation gloves to protect your skin if you are handling extremely hot peppers; the oil can irritate your skin.
- Never touch your face, eyes, genitals or pets when handling peppers.
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