Our Basque Country

Espelette Pepper | Duck | Aldudes' ham dryer | Traditionnal recipes

 

ESPELETTE PEPPER

 

History

This pepper came from Mexico and was locally introduced by a Basque navigator who was part of Christopher Colombus’ crew for America. Firstly, it was used as a medecine. In 1650, It started to grow in Espelette and to be eaten as a condiment or as a preservative (for ham and meat). Nowadays this caracteristical variety is only produced between ten towns and villages : Aïnhoa, Cambo-les-Bains, Espelette, Halsou, Itxassou, Jatxou, Larressore, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle, Souraïde and Ustaritz. Thanks to patience and know-how, Espelette pepper producers keep perfecting their art.

In 1967, in Espelette, Pepper Day was launched by the official brotherhood. It takes place every year the last week-end of October. In the streets, farmers exhibit their plants. On Sunday morning, the annual production is blessed during a mass. Then, in the castle,the man of the year is enthroned and swears to protect Espelette pepper eternally…

 

Production of Espelette pepper

Sowing is carried out in the middle of  February using compost. Seedlings are then planted out and grown under glass.

Planting out in fields begins in May.

Flowers blossom in June.

Staking and weeding are carried out by hand and  the first flowers blossom in June.

The pepper reaches its final size (around 7 to 14 cm) and is green before repening into magnificient red colour.

Harvesting is carried out by hand and only the red peppers are harvested between August and the first frosts.

Once the powered peppers have received approval, the product is packed (into glass, jars or sachets), stamped with the AOC Piment d’Espelette logo and is ready for marketing.

Peppers can be sold fresh or in powder, nevertheless, all products need to be stamped « AOC »( specified origin) before distributing.

Gallery : From the seed to the powder

  The transplantation (february)     The planting
  Ground preparation The planting (may) The staking  
  Pepper flower Ripe plant The harvesting (until november) Roping : traditionnal drying on the walls
Drying and riping in glasshouse   Pepper's predrying and riping in greenhouse (best preservation of the pepper's quality) Tailing before oven-drying Predried and tailed pepper
 
Oven (55°c for 48h) Grinding Packing by Kilo for the INAO (the institute wich controls the specified origin)   Pepper agreement (anonymous lot)
       
Packaging after agreement with safe-sticker on the glass pot        

 

Pepper Day (last week-end of october)