Frozen chili keeps for up to one year in the freezer, but it lasts even longer if you dry your chili fruits. In principle, dried chili can last for ages, though it might just lose a little of its strength over time. There are several ways of drying chili.
In the major chili-producing countries such as India, they sun dry chilies by spreading them out in a sunny, airy place. In Mexico and many South American countries you often see chilies hanging on a line in rows - so-called ristas. It looks great and they use them to decorate kitchens, terraces and other places where gastronomy reigns. In countries where you won’t get quite as much help from the sun, you have to use hot air ovens, drying cabinets or dehydrators.
How do I do it?
If you are drying chilies, they need to be ripe and in good condition. Select the best chilies and discard those with flaws. It pays to be fussy. Cut them into smaller pieces if you’re going to use your chilies for powder. The thin-walled chilies are best suited for drying on a string. Punch a hole in the chili with a coarse needle with a strong thread, or string and pull the chillies onto the thread. Hang your vine in a dry place with plenty of air circulation. Thick-skinned chilies can easily be dried if you cut them into smaller pieces. If you dry them whole, they risk getting mouldy.
If you intend to use your dried chilies for powder or flakes, you may choose to discard the seeds, as they may be a little bitter and discolour your powder. The placenta, on the other hand, has an effect on the strength, so if you remove it, you also remove some of the strength.
If using an oven or a dehydrator, the drying temperature must be between 45 and 60º C - neither below nor above. With too little heat, you risk the development of mould and thus a carcinogenic toxin in the fungus. Too much heat will discolour your chilies and your powder will turn brown. I use a dehydrator myself and it takes about 1 day to dry my chilies. A moisture content of 8% in the chili powder is perfect. Dried chili is one of the most useful spices you can find. Have you ever tried frying your bacon with touch of chili powder, for example? If not, you are in for a real treat!
If you can’t be bothered with the whole drying process, I have dried a whole range of chilies that you can try here.