Dried Espelette Chile Peppers
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Dried Espelette peppers are small to medium in size, averaging 15 to 17 centimeters in length, and have a conical to cylindrical shape, tapering towards the non-stem end. The peppers bear a slight, curved appearance and have deeply creased, semi-smooth, thin, and glossy dark red to maroon skin. The dried flesh also has a brittle, delicate consistency. Underneath the surface, there are many yellow and round dried seeds contained in the central cavity. Dried Espelette peppers have a faint, tomatoey-sweet, hay-like aroma. When ground into a powder, the peppers develop concentrated sweet, smokey, tangy, and citrusy flavors with mild heat.
Dried Espelette peppers are available year-round.
Dried Espelette peppers, botanically classified as Capsicum annuum, are a gourmet variety belonging to the Solanaceae or nightshade family. The name Espelette was given to the pepper in honor of a small town in France where the variety traditionally grows. Espelette peppers are also known as Piment d'Espelette and are one of the only peppers in the world to be classified with an Appellation d’origine controlee, or AOC, which is similar to the protected status of Champagne. Espelette peppers are primarily grown in France's Basque region and are hand-harvested, strung into large bunches, and air-dried for extended use. The dried peppers provide a mild heat, averaging 500 to 4,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, and are often used as a flavorful substitute for black pepper in Basque cooking. Unlike other dried peppers that are customarily reconstituted before use, Dried Espelette peppers are ground into powder and favored as a warm spice.
Dried Espelette peppers are a source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, and boost collagen production. The peppers also contain lower amounts of potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, calcium to strengthen bones and teeth, and iron to develop the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the blood.
Dried Espelette peppers are most commonly sliced into strips or ground into a powder as an added flavoring. The peppers are not traditionally reconstituted by soaking in hot water like other dried pepper varieties, but the thinly sliced flesh is incorporated into soups and stews for a smokey, citrusy taste. When ground into a powder, Dried Espelette peppers can be used as a substitute for black pepper, paprika, or as a milder cayenne pepper. The powder can be sprinkled on a wide variety of preparations, including scrambled eggs, salads, roasted vegetables, fried potatoes, or tomato-based pasta. Dried Espelette pepper powder can also be mixed into cheeses, creamy dips, and mayonnaise to add a touch of sweet spice or used as a rub for roasted meats. In the Basque region, Bayonne ham and Axoa lamb are typically coated in a layer of Espelette pepper powder. Espelette peppers pair well with wild mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, aromatics such as onions, garlic, and shallots, and meats including lamb, poultry, fish, pork. The dried peppers will keep several years stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry, and dark place. Powdered versions of the pepper will keep for two years when unopened in an airtight container.
Espelette peppers are the stars of the Fête du Piment, also known as the Espelette Pepper Festival in the Basque region of France. The annual celebration was established in 1968 by the Confrérie du Piment d'Espelette, or the Brotherhood of Espelette Peppers, and was created to highlight one of the region’s most beloved gourmet peppers. During the weekend festival in October, Espelette peppers are hung in large garlands to air dry and are used as decoration outside of businesses, homes, and restaurants. The influx of the hanging, drying red peppers provides picturesque photo backdrops for visiting tourists and brings a vibrant energy into the small town in preparation for the celebration. Each year, the Espelette Pepper Festival attracts approximately 20,000 visitors, and both residents and tourists enjoy sampling the peppers and attending live musical performances, dances, parades, and contests. Espelette peppers are also used in dishes crafted by local vendors, and the peppers are sold fresh, dried, or in powder form as a spice. One of the signature culinary dishes of the Basque region is piperade. The hearty stew-like dish is comprised of Espelette peppers, tomatoes, onions, and yellow peppers, paired with eggs, ham, or other meats. Piperade can also be used as a sauce and served over bread, roasted meats, or pasta.
Espelette peppers are descendants of ancient peppers native to Central and South America that have been cultivated for thousands of years. The peppers were introduced from the New World to the Nive Valley, France, in 1523 by Gonzalo Percaztegi, a Basque navigator who traveled with Christopher Columbus and brought the peppers back to his hometown. Once planted throughout the Basque region, Espelette peppers became a beloved crop localized to the area, eventually earning an AOC, or Appellation d’oprigine controlee in 2000. This designation of origin protects the Espelette peppers grown within the Basque region, attributing the variety’s flavor to the climate, terroir, and culture. Today Espelette peppers are grown in ten communes throughout the Basque region, including Ustaritz, Jatxou, Ainhoa, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle, Cambo-les-Bains, Souraïde, Halsou, Itxassou, Larressore, and Espelette. Fresh Espelette peppers are sold through local markets and distributors. Dried Espelette peppers can be found in specialty grocers and through online retailers.
Recipes that include Dried Espelette Chile Peppers. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Primal Palate||Espelette Chili Sirloin Steak|
|SOS Cuisine||Pork Fillets with Espelette Pepper|
|Sips, Nibbles, & Bites||Basque Piperade|
|Market Hall Foods||Piment d'Espelette Aioli|