Piment d’Espelette is the only labeled chili pepper in France, its quality and origin protected since 2000 by an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) and since 2012 by the European label PGI.
It’s a very perfumed chili, not too hot (4000 SHU) but with a lot of flavor and a subtle smokiness that comes from a final drying phase in the oven.
Our Espelette pepper is grown organically in a permaculture farm near Espelette, France.
This post was updated on February 1st, 2019
ESPELETTE CHILI PEPPER
Piment d’Espelette is the only labeled chili pepper in France, its quality and origin protected since 2000 by an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) and since 2012 by the European label PGI. Capsicum annuum, introduced in France in since XVI century, has found a perfect microclimate in the northern territory of the Basque country, around the commune of Espelette (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) where years of manual section have developed a specific variety called “Gorria”, very aromatic, delicate and with a mild pungency (4000 SHU in the Scoville scale).
The hot summers and rainy winters in this small hilly territory close to the ocean and to the Pyrenees are perfectly suited to chili cultivation, a climate nearly subtropical, with the dry southern wind Haize Hegoa helping the peppers develop their rich aroma.
These conditions lead to an extraordinary pepper, hot but not burning, with fruity aromas, notes of tomato, hay, and sweet pepper and a typical grilled/smoked tone. This is achieved thanks to the drying method, that starts with a period of 15 days in a glasshouse and ends with a final drying in a low temperature oven (traditionally, bread ovens -present in every farm – were used for this). The crisp peppers are then ground to obtain a fine powder.
The earliest traces of cultivation of Chili Peppers in the Basque region around Espelette are dated 1650 and since then this territory has been reputed for the quality of its spicy crops.
We source ours from Maialen Noblia, a small farmer in Cambo-les-Bains. She is certified organic and cultivates her land in permaculture (the most respectful and natural way of farming), so this is a big plus for us.
This year (2018) the production has been lower due to bad weather so the prices have risen.
TASTE AND USES IN THE KITCHEN
In Basque cuisine piment d’Espelette is generously sprinkled over many dishes, giving a boost in taste to eggs (fried, scrambled), grilled fishes, terrines, salads, soups. Fresh goat cheeses are a great base to let Espelette pepper shine. With its very rich and aromatic taste and its mild hotness it can be paired with many ingredients without overpowering them.
Personally I love to add it to grilled squid (with a bit of lemon zest), and to pasta for a nice kick, but feel free to experiment!
Spices – Cumin, Coriander, Vanilla, Szechuan Pepper
Seasonings and herbs – Garlic, Citrus juice, Fresh ginger, Soy sauce, cilantro
Fruits & Vegetables – Tomato, asparagus, pumpkin and squashes, potatoes
Proteins – Pork, Beef, eggs, fish
Other – lentils, beans, pasta, rice, fruits salads, olive oil
Chili peppers have many medicinal properties (including upset stomach, intestinal gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramps), mainly due to its main component capsaicin. Gorria variety, being low in capsaicin, is better suited to gastronomic than medicinal uses.
Our Espelette Chili Pepper is not certified because the label is authorized only when the final packaging is made by a certified operator inside the territory protected by the label. We do source a certified product but we re-package it with our own boxes. Only glass is accepted by the label, but – as for many other spices – glass is not the best for perfect conservation, so we prefer to use metal boxes or paper with a protective inner film.
Download the specification for the AOP here
Tin Box (reusable and recyclable)
Premium Quality (AOP piment d\'Espelette)