Mildly Hot & Smooth Pepper Jelly from the Basque Region
This sublime, spicy jelly is a family inspiration from la Maison du Piment, French Basque makers of Piment d’Espelette DOP. It's made with freshly harvested, ripe Espelette peppers, which confer a spicy, fruity taste and aroma.
Piment d'Espelette Jelly is fun and really versatile, and—unlike other pepper jellies—it has a warm, food-friendly flavor that won’t rip your head off. Use it to slather oven-roasted chicken wings or make blue cheese and espelette pepper jelly crostini. Serve the jelly with foie gras or go to the sweet side and drizzle on top of traditional cheesecake or over a chocolate torte.
Piment d'Espelette Jelly is only produced once a year, during the harvest. Producer Vincent Darritchon, working from a recipe his mother Jeanne-Marie created in 1998 in the kitchen of La Maison du Piment, shows wonderful restraint in his making. First, he gently heats a fresh red pepper coulis in a four-gallon copper bain-marie. He then uses this small-batch coulis to make a beautifully balanced jelly—the bit of vinegar is a really nice touch.
AOP Designation and the Harvesting of Piment d'Espelette
With a shared vision of excellence and sustainability, a group of dedicated Basque Piment d'Espelette farmers developed a strict standard by which to preserve this traditional local food, and in 2007, Piment d’Espelette’s AOP (Appellation d'Origine Protégée) was officially recognized by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine.
The AOP designation is a European provenance guarantee, acknowledging that Piment d'Espelette is authentic only if grown and processed in the region that, with its specific terroir, grants the coveted spice its inimitable flavor profile. This verdant region is a tiny, 22-square-kilometer sweep of farms across 10 villages in and surrounding Espelette—the French Basque town near Bayonne. It enjoys the growing conditions and specific terroir of the French Basque countryside: slightly acidic soil and a very wet, hilly terrain overgrown with deciduous forest.
Under the AOP standard, only hand-harvesting of the pepper is allowed and specific processing considerations must be adhered to, from the type of wooden racks the peppers are dried on to the specific size mesh used for creating the powder. After at least 15 days of open-air drying, the peppers are tasted by trained tasters to ensure perfect and consistent flavor.