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Chili Craft
 
Have you got an abundance of chilies at the end of summer?
Don't let them go to waste. By drying them, you can preserve them for years.
Kids can help make decorations from the chilies, either a simple ristra from fresh chilies or a more decorative garland from diried chilies.
 
First, pick your chilies
 
Some advice before you start: 
 
  1. Chilies are HOT so it's best to wear gloves when handling them.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes or nose when handling chilies and always wash your hands thoroughly after handling them.
  3. Pick only the unblemished chilies off your bushes, and pick them with the stems on.
  4. Wash them with warm water and dry thoroughly with paper towels or leave them to air dry thoroughly.  Any moisture will make them go mouldy.
 
Make a Ristra
 
A Ristra is a string of fresh chilies that are hung up to air dry.
 
To make a simple threaded ristra you'll need:
  • Chilies
  • A length of fishing line
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Scissors to cut fishing line
Method:
  • Select fully mature, red chili pods. If the chilies are still green, place them in a cool, dark area for two to three days.
  • Thread the needle with the fishing line and tie a knot in one end
    Push the needle through the stem of a chili, about 1/8 inch above the top of the pod. Slide the chili to the knot in the line.
  • TIP: To ensure your ristra keeps a nice shape when threading the stems, hold your needle upright, point to the sky. When you thread the chilli stem on, aim to have it at a 45 degree angle, with the stem higher than the pod. As you push the chilies down to the bottom of the line you may need to turn them round slightly each time to avoid any empty areas in your ristra.
  • Add a second chili to the line in the same way, turning the chili slightly to make an attractive bunch. Continue until you have strung all of the chili peppers.
  • Make a loop in the top of the line to hang your ristra.
  • Once your ristra is finished, hang it somewhere where it will get ideally plenty or light and heat.
  • As the chilies dry out they will usually take on a much darker colour. Be sure to remove any pods that look as though they are going mouldy. If this is happening, move the ristra into a more ventelated area until the drying process is complete.
 
Make a Chili Wreath
 
A chili wreath is a lovely decoration made out of dried chilies.
 
Three methods for drying chilies for your wreath
 
1. Drying chilies indoors:
This is the “easiest” method, yet probably the most time-consuming.
Place whole chilies in a single-layer on baking racks and set them in a very dry, warm, and extremely well-ventilated area with loads of sunlight. Rotate them regularly and discard any that show signs of softness or spoilage. Where possible, place the baking sheets outdoors when the weather is hot, sunny and dry to speed up the drying process.
Within one to two weeks, they should be dry and brittle.
 
2. Drying chilies in the oven:
Simply position the chilies on a baking sheet in a single layer and place it in a very low oven (50C) with the oven door slightly open to allow moisture to escape.
Every hour, rotate and/or flip the peppers over for even drying.
Watch that they don't go soft, brown/black, or get extremely hot on the side where they touch the pan.
As soon as they’re fully dry, remove from the oven, allow to cool, then place in an air-tight container.
 
3. Drying chilies outdoors:
Sun-drying can be very effective if the weather cooperates and if you’ve picked a spot where you can get maximum exposure to direct sunlight.  Simply place the chilies on a baking sheet and outside when there’s a long string of hot, sunny days.
 
To make the chili wreath
 
You'll need:
  • Dried chilies
  • a 30 - 35cm straw wreath (from craft shop)
  • 24 guage florist wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Raffia ribbon (straw coloured)
Method:
  • Cut a piece of florist wire so it is long enough to wrap around the circumference of the wreath form, with a few extra inches on both ends for tying.
  • Poke the wire through each chili stem. Choose chilies that are still whole and discard any that have cracked or are broken. You do not want the seeds of the chilies spilling out. Keep the little stem that's attached to the chilies.
  • Continue to add chilies to the long piece of wire. They should slide easily along the wire as you add them. You'll need about 150 chilies to complete the strand.
  • When the strand is full, twist the ends of the wire together to lock the chilies in place. Position this strand of chilies on top of the wreath form – the chilies should dangle over the edge. Tie this strand to the wreath with pieces of raffia ribbon, which will disappear against the straw on the wreath. Secure it in at least eight locations along the strand.
  • Cut a piece of wire so that you can assemble a second loop of chilies about an inch smaller in diameter than the first one. Twist the ends of the wire to secure the chilies in place. This will be the second layer of chilies.
  • Place this second loop of chilies on top of the first layer of chilies. Attach the strand to the wreath form with raffia ribbon at several points. This second layer will press against the stems of the first layer and help prop up the chilies.
  • Cut a piece of wire that's the length of the inner circumference of the straw wreath form. Thread chilies on this wire to create a third, smaller strand of chilies. Twist the ends of the wire to form a loop.
  • Place the third layer of chilies on top of the first two, and secure it to the wreath form with raffia ribbon. You may have to adjust a few of the chilies that fall out of alignment, as all the chilies should be pointing outward.
  • Decide which part of the wreath will be the top. On the other side, tie a wire loop for hanging. Create a bow with raffia. Tie the raffia bow to the wreath.

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