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Monday
Mar162009

Fiery dried pepper from Basque country...

Piment d Espelette (AOC) is the beloved chile pepper of the Basque country. Some varieties of chile peppers are given treasured status in certain regions of the world, where they are celebrated in art, legend, the kitchen, and festivals. Paprika has such status in Hungary, the jalapeño in Laredo, Texas, and the mole varieties ancho and pasilla in central Mexico. The Espelette Pepper has become a cultural and culinary icon in Basque country where it has gained controlled-name status.

When Columbus brought chile peppers to Europe from the Caribbean after his second voyage in 1493, they were first grown in monastery gardens in Spain and Portugual as curiosities. But soon the word got out that the pungent pods were a reasonable and cheap substitute for black pepper, which was so expensive that it had been used as currency in some countries.

It is believed that chiles were introduced into the Nive Valley by Gonzalo Percaztegi in 1523, but it wasn’t until the 17th century that it received its own genus and not until the 19th century that it achieved its status as one of the most loved peppers worldwide. In 1999 AOC was granted to Espelette peppers, or “Ezpeletako bipera” in Basque language, giving it the same protection as more famous names, such as Champagne sparkling wine. Only ten communities are allowed to use the name Espelette.

Piment d Espelette is often used as a substitute for black pepper in the Basque country and is wonderful with eggs fried in extra virgin olive oil or scrambled! Available in our pantry…

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