The Piment d’Espelette is a hot pepper that has been used for five centuries in a region of France called the Basque country (South West – bordering Spain). The cultivar was originally imported from South America in 1650 but it was quickly integrated into Basque culture as they replaced the pepper with the Espelette Chili to cook and conserve meat.

In order to preserve the unique features of the product linked to its particular ‘’terroir’’ as well as to boost its international repute, the farmers union proposed a project for a Protected Designation of Origin. They succeed in obtaining it in 2000. Now they can sell the Espelette chili fresh, fastened on a rope, or in powder.

The Protected Designation of Origin Piment d’Espelette specifications

The production area has a specific microclimate similar to the hot and humid subtropical one, which facilitates the culture and the transformation of the hot pepper. The plant has evolved since its introduction to European soil and now the cultivar is well adapted to the region.

Piment_espelette ropes
The Protected Designation of Origin implies certain specifications. The culture must be placed in a specific area in which only this cultivar is allowed. The production prohibits the use of pesticides, requires a restricted use of irrigation, a low density of crop plantation and a manual harvest. The transformation into powder is also controlled: a minimum of 15 days of natural air drying to ensure maturation, and then a few more hours in the oven.

Data from 2010-2011 campaign:
– 161 farmers
– 15 transformation and conditioning firms
– Around 250 acres of production
– 2,8 million plants
– 145 tons of powder produced in 2010

The Protected Designation of Origin for the Piment d’Espelette has not only helped to preserve this typical product, but also to boost its area of production. The farmers union organizes events to promote their high quality spice, such as cooking competitions and local fairs. Currently, the Piment d’Espelette is recognized on a national scale and is starting to spread internationally. Famous chefs are proposing a variety of recipes, both salty and sweet.

Pascal Xicluna/Min.Agri.Fr

Piment d’Espelette powder     Pascal Xicluna/Min.Agri.Fr

Recipe: Dried tomato and olive spicy shortbread cookie

Feeds: 20
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 15 minutes

– 2.65 oz of white flour
– 2.65 oz of whole wheat flour
– 2 teaspoons of Piment d’Espelette
– 1 teaspoon of baking powder
– 4.4 oz of butter (room temperature)
– 1 egg
– 1.75 oz of grated Parmesan cheese
– 0.9 oz of black olives
– 0.9 oz of dried tomatoes

Cut the olives and dried tomatoes into very small pieces.
In a mixing bowl, mix the flours, Parmesan cheese, Piment d’Espelette and baking powder. Cut the butter into small pieces, add it to the mixing bowl and mix by hand.
Add the whipped egg. Add the olives and dried tomatoes to the dough.
With the dough, make one (or two) sausage-like rolls, 2–inches thick. Roll up it in a plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the sausage in thick slices (around 0.4 inches) and place them on a paper covered baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
You can enjoy it as pre-dinner aperitif or as part of an evening buffet.

Bon Appétit !