The Espelette pepper is known for its strength and is a real ally in cooking for many gourmets. Where does this exceptional spice come from and how to use it well to make the best recipes?
The Espelette pepper : what is it ?
Espelette, in the heart of the Basque Country, produces annually its famous peppers, put to dry on all the facades of the houses from August to November. The drying of the spice is carried out today under greenhouse. However, the small town continues to be adorned with the red colors of its peppers to celebrate each new harvest.
How to recognize the Espelette pepper ?
The technique of drying on the shelves allows the pepper to lose water very slowly and thus to develop all its aromas. Before being ground or made into ropes, the product is passed through a very high temperature oven. If it can be consumed fresh, you should know that it is only once dried that the pepper benefits from the PDO designation.
The Espelette chilli pepper PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) is the only French spice to have this label. It is indeed a condiment with a very specific taste, sought after by great chefs and gourmets. It is known to be long in the mouth. The spice releases its pungent flavors slowly, offering a warm sensation and a sweet taste with bitter notes. This particular condiment develops in the nose sensations of hay, ripe tomatoes and peppers. The tasting leaves a final note, close to the roasting.
In order to ensure a healthy product, the organization in charge of awarding the PDO label controls the entire batch. Thus, to obtain the designation, all peppers must come from a single farm.
How is the Espelette pepper cultivated ?
It is a spice originally cultivated in Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil. It was in the 19th century that it was established in the Basque Country, where the climate is close to its regions of origin.
Over the centuries, the know-how has been refined and today’s producers know how to choose the seeds from the most beautiful peppers of a harvest. This particular attention to preserve only the best specimens is one of the characteristics of the Espelette pepper. Growers germinate the seeds in March and then plant the young shoots in potting soil. Kept underground, it is in May that the plants are planted in the fields.
Espelette chilli plants do not need much water to grow. It is therefore an environmentally friendly production that does not require many treatments.
How to use the Espelette pepper in cooking
The spice will spice up all cooked dishes, thanks to its spicy notes. Traditionally, it is added to soups, as a condiment for sauces or as a garnish for vegetables and meats.
The best chefs who use Espelette pepper marry it with cocoa for unique and innovative desserts.
Discovering the facades of Espelette proudly covered in red at the new harvest is one of the must-do activities of a stay in the Basque Country.