In mid summer of 1999, we introduced our customers to PIMENT D’ ESPELETTE, the French Basque country specialty pepper which has an appellation control and is the most famous French capsicum pepper. Grown in only ten communes in the Pays Basque, it is unique in France. The Espelette variety, another of the myriad Capsicum annum L., resembles none of the other peppers grown. In its home region, it now has an indigenous population with unique morphological characteristics. Both aromatic and pungent, it has figured in chocolate recipes and is part of the rub for the famous Jambon de Bayonne.
Called “pipera” or “biperra” in Basque, it was so prestigious that it almost disappeared due to counterfeit sales by unscrupulous merchants. Widely grown for home consumption, there are only about 50 producers who grow the pepper for sale. Harvested when ripe red, strung on 20 pepper “cordes” and dried, Espelette pepper is then “baked” at a very low temperature for a few hours to increase its color and aroma. When their moisture falls lower than 12%, the peppers are powdered, with or without seeds, and packaged.
Very aromatic, with layers of scent comprising a fruity, sweet, toasted tone of some intensity, it flavors dishes before giving them heat. Espelette’s hotness falls between sweet bell pepper and Cayenne. It has a rich, round deep flavor with heat present, lifting flavor, but not intrusive. In French, “un goût relevé.”
We have customers who are addicted to Piment d’Espelette. You should keep it on the table as an addition to black pepper and salt. It has a lovely flavor and a very pretty red color.