We plant and grow our various peppers two to three seasons per year depending on many factors. The growing season includes the climate and geographical location. But it also includes specifics about the plant such as the length of the growing season and how long it takes the plant to flower. We consider everything such as the temperature, altitude, rainfall, and latitude. After we grow and harvest peppers, then we dry them. Here we discuss the process we use to store dry peppers and get them ready for shipping.
Chili Pepper Harvest
Once chili peppers ripen, we harvest, sort, wash and de-stem them as necessary. First of all, we place them in covered piles to allow the moisture content to equalize. This is when the drying process really begins. There are two ways to dry peppers, in ovens or on suspended screens. After they have dried, we sort and pack the dry peppers into special sacks that preserve them until time to ship. The safe zone of the moisture content in dried chilies is between 5 and 12%. Ideally, the moisture content is kept between 8 and 12%. It’s important to maintain their moisture content. If it is too high, the peppers will be too pliable to grind. We return peppers that are too pliable to the drying process. Chili peppers that have a moisture content under 7%, can be too brittle and tend to shatter when handled.
Preparing Peppers for Storage
Between seasons we store our dried peppers packaged in 4mill thick poly plastic bags inside cardboard shipping boxes and placed treated wood or plastic pallet. However, we pack super hot peppers in 1kg bags. We assemble dried peppers and prepare them for shipping when an order is placed. Instead of vacuum shrinking peppers to preserve their shape, we heat seal every single pepper bag. Peppers are hygroscopic. This term means they have the ability to attract and hold water molecules from their surrounding environment. To combat this, we maintain low humidity levels with stable temperatures that help maintain the proper environment for storage. Proper storage lengthens their shelf life. Ideal storage for dry peppers is in a cool, dry place with temperatures between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit with 55% moisture or lower.
Our Sterilization Process
Although some customers prefer untreated peppers, sterilization can be an important step in preparing peppers for storage and ultimately shipping dry peppers. There are three different ways to accomplish sterilization: Ethylene Oxide gas treatments, steam treatments, or irradiation. Sterilization is important to kill contaminants, salmonella, and the eggs of common pests such as Tobacco Beetles or Meal Moths that may be hiding inside or on the peppers waiting for the right conditions in which to hatch. The steam method uses indirect heat with “dry steam”. We carefully consider the power level of each treatment. Too strong treatment may reduce the flavor, aroma and health benefit.
Maintaining Proper Humidity
The recommendation is to store peppers in about 55% humidity. We use polyethylene bags to help reduce problems with dust. This is why use special liners to maintain a constant moisture content. This protects peppers that are in storage waiting to be ground. It is safe to store dry peppers in these bags as long as 24 months at 32 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, manufacturers of chili pepper products typically hold raw materials in cold storage at these temps but prefer to grind them as soon as they can and store them in airtight containers.
Storing Pepper Products
We store dry peppers in a carefully maintained environment therefore, dried pods should be good for about 24 months. It is safe to store dry Chili powder and chili flakes for up to 2-3 years. In addition, you can store jarred products such as paste and mash for as long as two years if they are not opened. Always check pouches of dry peppers to ensure they were not damaged during handling. If a pouch is damaged or punctured, it is important to inspect the peppers immediately.