Matt Simpson of Simpsons Seeds, a Chilli expert, author and general all round nice guy tells us how to make paprika;
“We don’t have the nice dry climate here in the UK that is enjoyed in the US and Mexico, so sadly we cannot dry chillies out in the open. It can be possible to dry chillies in a greenhouse, but this is risky, this last year, the ‘wet one’, it would have been pretty much impossible.
I have spoken to folks who dry them above ranges, Aga’s and over fire places, this may well add an extra element of flavour to them, but this can take some time, also, if there is much moisture in the kitchen from kettles or boiling water, it can take longer.
I have found that best way to dry them is to use a dehydrator, I have owned a couple over the last few years, surprisingly, the cheapest, has produced the best. It was bought online can was just under £40.
Unlike the more expensive one, this one does not have a thermostat, so I have to rotate the rays a couple of times. If I don’t the sliced up flesh tends to get a little bit caramelized. Brilliant! I do check the trays every couple of hours to make sure things are drying well.
Combined with the de-hydrator is a very basic blender, and also a cheap coffee grinder. I have been asked why I don’t invest in more expensive equipment. I found that they have the same life expectancy as the cheap stuff. What I would say is make sure that you cover your face, or buy a decent dust mask when it comes to processing the hotter chillies.
The drying fumes from the de-hydrator can be pretty harsh on the non chilli lover in the house hold, chilli fume related coughing fits are a common place occurrence for me, more so when drying Habanero’s and especially so the 7-Pots, which as mentioned earlier are insanely hot. Best thing to do is place the dehydrator in a spare room, shed, or somewhere unlikely to cause domestic problems. Do remember that pets noses are far more sensitive than ours, dogs many hundreds of times so.
The procedure is to cut the pods into slices, or pieces, try to make sure that they are as similar sizes as possible. This ensures that the drying time is the same, if the pieces are of uneven sizes, the drying time will be varied, some pieces will be caramilising, (which does add to the flavour), whilst others are still soft. Once dried, they need to be allowed to cool to room tempreture.
The next part of the process is the blender. It’s also a good chance to experiment with mixing two, or more varieties together. As a seed producer, I tend to make quite a bit of sweet paprika, this as you can imagine, I find a bit dull. So a few years ago I began experimenting using the sweet paprika as a base, and then adding the powder from a hot one.
The use of a blender leaves largish pieces, these have their uses, why not keep some back and mix them with crystal sea salt, this was they can be used as BBQ rub or steak seasoning. I tend to go for fine powder, it takes up less space, and mixtures are less likely to settle. This is where the face protection is very important. As mention I have been using a cheap, (less than £10) coffee grinder. The powder does float up in the air, even more so when emptying the grinder into a storage jar. I found that using a spoon was kinder on the lungs, also giving each batch a few minutes to settle within the grinder before opening to decant also helps.
Suggested sweet peppers, Napoleon Sweet, Marconi, Honur F1, although any that take your fancy should do, I like to use a thick fleshed type. As for the hots, well, there is a huge range out there, go for ones which suit your tastes, remember that you will get less paprika from thinner fleshed, which includes the stupidly hot 7-Pot. Try some of the Aji’s, or thicker fleshed annums.”
Link to Simpsons Seeds Chilli Seeds