Chances are, if you’ve ever traveled out West or eaten at a Southwestern restaurant, you’ve seen a chili ristra. These colorful strings of dried chili peppers originated in New Mexico, where the chili peppers are traditionally harvested. The chili ristra is allowed to dry in the sun, then hung for use in various spicy dishes throughout the winter.
Select red and green chilis that are ripe (but not overripe), firm and free of blemishes or bruises. Keep the stem intact. Wash and dry.
Tying the Ristra
Step 2: Cut a long length of lightweight cotton string, baling wire or twine (approximately 10 feet). Begin making a series of slipknots as pictured.
Step 3: Poke the stems of the peppers through the slipknots. Tighten each knot as you add more peppers (three per knot should do the trick). Weave the twine around the stems several times and knot twine to make a cluster.
Continue the process until you have a “foundation” for your ristra. Cut additional 6-in. pieces of twine and attach more peppers to fill in any gaps.
Drying the Ristra
Once the ristra is covered in peppers, hang it in full sun where there is ample air circulation and light (a clothesline is perfect). Good air circulation will prevent the chilis from molding.
Once dried, use the chilis in sauces and other Southwestern recipes, or display as a colorful kitchen decoration.
Chili Pepper Recipes
Here’s a real crowd-pleaser! The banana peppers pack a subtle punch in this Hot Pepper Pleasers recipe, and the pepperoni adds spice. Have knives, forks and napkins ready so folks can eat them up neatly.
—Darius Kovacina, Acme, Pennsylvania
To add a little bite to your burgers, just add peppers. The cheesy pepper-onion topping and chipotle glaze lend these Pepper & Jack Smothered Cheeseburgers Southwestern flair.
—Deborah Biggs, Omaha, Nebraska
There’s no faster way to get a party started than with these bacon-wrapped Sweet & Spicy Jalapeno Poppers. Make them ahead and bake just before serving. Even the hot pepper intolerant will love them.
—Dawn Onuffer, Crestview, Florida
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