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Piquillo Chile Peppers
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Piquillo chile peppers are harvested when ripe, their coloring when mature will be an opaque red-orange set into a thick smooth skin. The chiles are stout and their shape is conical coming to a blunted point, similar in appearance to that of a bird’s beak. Inside the hollowed chile is a tight stem-end seed cavity and cottony membrane laden with seeds. The flesh is crisp and succulent, its flavors bright, fruity, piquant and savory sweet. Once grilled their flesh becomes tender yet meaty and flavor profile takes on an enhanced sweetness laced with smoky nuances. The Piquillo chile is a mild chile offering only 500 to 1,000 Scoville heat units.
Fresh Piquillo peppers are available in the summer months.
Piquillo chile peppers, also known as Pimiento de Piquillo de Lodosa is botanically a member of the Capsicum annuum family, the most extensively cultivated species of the five domesticated capiscums. They are classified as a sweet pepper variety. Piquillo received its given name from the Spanish word which translates to mean "little beak." In 1987 it was granted Denomination of Origin status which is an indication of controlled designation of origin. It is most commonly found outside of Spain today roasted, peeled and preserved in cans and jars.
Piquillo peppers are ubiquitously and traditionally grilled or roasted to bring out their sweetness, skin peeled and then packed into cans or jars and preserved in olive oil, citric acid and salt. These types of Piquillo peppers fill shelves on the condiment aisle around the globe. Both fresh and preserved Piquillo peppers are classically grilled and stuffed with fillings such as Manchego cheese, fresh farmers cheese, spicy sausage or shredded cod, a regional favorite in Spain. They are large enough to make a substantial appetizer or accompaniment to a main dish. The peppers can also be blended into a soup, cut into segments and served on burgers or used for fajitas. The peppers can be dried and ground to powder form, which is commonly known and referred to as paprika. Complimentary pairings include tomatoes, cream, cheeses both melting and fresh, sausages, grains such as barley and rice, ground lamb and beef, cod and halibut, cooked eggs, pine nuts, pistachios, garlic, cilantro, cumin, oregano, poultry, shredded pork, lemon, dill and citrus. To store fresh peppers keep refrigerated and use within one to two weeks.
Navarra, Spain is well known for its jarred vegetables. The most sought after of these preserved vegetables are white asparagus, artichoke and the Piquillo pepper. The peppers have long been preserved for home use in the winter months in Spain. It was not until a surge in tourism in the 1960’s that mass production and preserving of local vegetable items such as the Piquillo became common place to meet the demands of tourists looking for local goods to take home with them.
The Piquillo pepper is native to Northern Spain and traditionally cultivated near the town of Lodosa. The production area is located in the Lower Ribera region of Navarra, an area renowned for vegetable and legume farming. The peppers are handpicked, packed, numbered and stamped with a Denomination of Origin. All other Piquillo peppers grown outside of the Lodosa region are considered less than equal as the region's climate and soil play an integral part in the genetic makeup of the Piquillo peppers quality and flavor. Piquillo peppers are grown throughout the Mediterranean and in the United States in warm arid climates, which essentially achieve the same results for the peppers, simply without the Denomination of Origin (D.O.C.).
Recipes that include Piquillo Chile Peppers. One is easiest, three is harder.