Ristras are strings or arrangements of chilli pepper pods that are hung to air dry. They are thought to have originated in South America as a simple/practical way to dry out surplus chillies for consumption at a later date. More recently ristras have increasingly been used for decoration in kitchens around the world and in some countries they are even thought to bring good luck to the household.
There are a million and one ways to make a ristra however before you start you first have to make sure you have the right type of chili peppers. Ideally you want a variety with fairly long thin fruit such as the Cayenne. More fleshy varieties such as Jalapenos can be ristra’d however there will be a greater chance of the fruit rotting rather than drying out. If you do select a more fleshy variety be sure they are hung in an area with lots of sun and ventilation to maximize their drying time.
Though probably not the most traditional ristra making technique, this is probably the quickest and easiest. Here is what you need:
– a good crop of fresh chillies
– a length of fishing line
– a large sewing needle
When picking your chillies try to ensure you leave a portion of the green stem above the fruit as this is where you will be threading them.
Start by putting a large knot in one end of your line and threading you needle onto the other end. Then it is simply a case of threading the chillies onto the line through the stems. However in order to ensure your ristra keeps a nice shape when threading the stems, hold your needle upright, point to the sky. When you thread the chillie stem on aim to have it at a 45 degree angle, with the stem higher than the pod. As you push the chillies down to the bottom of the line you may need to turn the peppers roundslightly each time to avoid any empty areas in your ristra.
Once your ristra is finished all you need to do is hang it somewhere where it will get ideally plenty or light and heat. On a sunny porch is probably ideal but if you leave in colder climes such as the UK then infront of a south facing window is probably best. As the chillies 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 try to move the ristra into a more ventelated area until the drying process is complete.