Red Hot Espelette Peppers

Espelette Pepper
Espelette Pepper

What do the chocolate, red powder and the earrings from the above image have in common? They all come from the village of Espelette in the French Basque Country and are made with or represent the Espelette pepper.
Espelette pepper, grown only on the fields surrounding ten villages situated near the village of Espelette is well known all over France for the hot spicy powder made from dried peppers. The Basques use it extensively in their traditional cuisine in dishes like axoa, poulet basquaise, piperade, paté etc.
The ancestor of the pepper known now as “Espelette pepper” was brought from the New World by the sailors that were part of Christopher Columbus’ expedition. The plant found in the Basque country similar climate and soil conditions to the native region and its farming became intensive. At the time when spices were sold at their weight in gold prices the Espelette pepper was used as condiment as well as for meat preservation.
Espelette pepper ropes
Pepper ropes hanging on house façade in Espelette village

The hot pepper powder is made by the same century-old procedure that is transmitted from generation to generation.
After harvest the peppers are put to dry up in traditional ropes or in shelves in a well ventilated room. After a period of slow drying out the peppers are placed in an oven for fast dehydration, process that allows for easy grinding and good preservation of the pepper powder.
In the 19th century Espelette pepper had a high honor place on altars of the Basque churches. During religious marriage ceremonies some pepper powder was burnt for its incense.
Nowadays during the Pepper Festival that take place each October in the village of Espelette, pepper farmer send their best festoons of pepper to be blessed during the mass; these are the peppers whose seeds are used for the next year’s crop.
Espelette pepper is recognized by the label “AOC appellation d’origine controlee” which translates as “controlled designation of origin”.
Local food shop in Espelette village
Local food shop in Espelette village

Espelette pepper ropes hanged to dry
Espelette pepper ropes drying
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