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You are here: Home > Hot Sauce Tips > Making Chili Ristras

Making Chili Ristras

Making Chili Ristras
Traditional New Mexican ristras are made by tying New Mexico red chiles together in clusters of three, with cotton string (this works with various other chiles as well).

Start by wrapping the string around the three stems a couple of times, then bring the string up between two of the chiles, and finish off with a half-hitch over the stems. Continue using the same piece of string, tying up groups of three chiles until it gets too awkward to handle. Just cut the string and start again. To make a 36" ristra will require around 15 pounds of fresh red pods.

When all the chiles have been strung by threes, they then get braided onto a length of strong twine or wire. Hanging the twine from an overhead support greatly simplifies this stage of assembly. Braid the chiles from the bottom of the twine as if braiding hair, using the twine as one braid and chiles from each grouping as the other two. Be sure to push each group down tightly against each other to insure an attractive, full-bodied ristra.

These days, some ristra makers have resorted to using rubber bands to "tie" up the groups of three chiles, then slipping each group over a wire to form the ristra. This method is considerably faster than the traditional method; the downside is that the ristras tend to be a bit thin or skinny and last only as long as the rubber bands hold out.

One final method to make a ristra is to use a large needle threaded with string. Push the needle through the bottom of the stem where it widens out, pushing the chiles up tightly against each other. Again this tends to produce thin looking ristras, but this can be overcome by hanging several strings together. It is also a handy way to handle smaller chiles such as cayennes or piquins, which require a lot of time and dexterity to string in the traditional way.

Unless you live in an arid climate, it is important to dry your ristras in a location where the air circulates freely. If hung inside a home in a damp climate, there is a good chance that some of the chiles will rot. Hung from a tree, or in an open porch should give the ristra a good chance to dry properly.

Other hot sauce or hot tips you may be interested in:

Making Chili Ristras
Sterilizing Hot Sauce Bottles
Hot Vinegar for Chile Peppers
Roasting/Freezing Chile Peppers
Freezing Chile Peppers
Pickling Chile Peppers
Drying Chile Peppers
Basic Pepper Plant Requirements
Pepper Propagation & Cultivation
Hot Pepper Plant Grow Zone Map

Here are some hot sauce and food web sites that might be of interest when you are ready to bottle, package and preserve your hot sauces.

Gateway to Government Food Safety Information

Food Safety and Food Preservation


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