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Chile Ristra

Materials

* Do not use any peppers with bad spots.

Method

  1. Begin by tying clusters of three chiles on the lightweight string. To tie the clusters, hold three chiles by their stems and wrap the string around the stems twice. Bring the string upward between two of the chiles and pull tight cutting into the stems slightly. Loop the string around your hand and turn it so that you place the loop over the ends of the chile stems and the free end is beneath the string attached to the cluster (half-hitch). Pull tightly.
  2. Continue making clusters about every three inches on the string. Several 5 foot lengths of string will be easier to work with than one long piece. Continue until all the chile peppers have been used.
  3. Suspend the wire or coat hanger from a nail in a rafter or a door knob or some other convenient place. Make a loop in the free end of the wire to prevent the clusters from slipping off. Some people use a wooden dowel at the end to keep the chiles in place.
  4. Starting with the first three chiles on the end of one string, braid the chiles around the wire. Place the cluster so that the chiles are on one side of the wire and the string holding the stems together is on the other, and twist two of the chiles in a braid. The process is similar to braiding a child's hair - the wire serves as one strand and two of the chile stems in the cluster serve as the other two.
  5. As the chile clusters are braided onto the wire, push them down in the center to ensure a tight wrap. Position the chiles in different directions on the wire for a balanced look. If this is not done, empty spaces may develop along one side of the ristra. Continue braiding until all the chiles have been used. Any excess string between the clusters will be hidden inside the ristra.
  6. You may add a finishing touch with corn husks or ribbon.
  7. Hang the ristra outside in full sun on a clothesline or an outdoor rafter to dry. If you do not do this, the chiles will turn moldy and rot. They will lose most of their weight during the drying process.
  8. Your new ristra can now be hung indoors or outdoors as a decoration. The dried chile peppers can be broken off and used in cooking. Do not spray the chiles with lacquer or any similar spray that will give it a shiny, unnatural sheen. This will make it look artificial and make it unfit for use as a food. Dry chile peppers have a natural luster without any from of spray.

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