Piquillo Pepper Jelly From Spain

I’ve loved Piquillo peppers for so long now that I start to assume that everyone else knows them as intimately as I do. Other than when the local peppers are in season at the market, I usually go through a jar or two a week.

If you don’t know Piquillos personally, they’re a small triangularly shaped pepper that grows up in the Basque Country in Spain. The best of them are still roasted over smoldering beech wood. The blackened skins are then carefully rubbed off by hand, and the peppers packed with no additives of any sort—the liquid that forms in the jars is just the juice from the recently roasted peppers. Piquillos are so highly prized that only farms near three dozen or so villages qualify to get the official denomination of origin that certifies authenticity. This is no small thing—over the last ten years, Piquillos have probably become the most often misrepresented pepper in the world. There are actually subpar “Piquillos” now being processed in almost every part of the globe. But the best ones still come from those same small villages in the northeastern part of Spain. They have a smoky, slightly spicy, delicious, unique flavor that goes great on pretty much everything you can think of putting a roasted pepper on.

What we have here is a new way to experience Piquillo peppers, and a pretty amazingly good one at that. Piquillo pepper jelly. Not surprisingly, this stuff is as delicious as the peppers are on their own. A bright bold red color that reminds me of raspberry jam, you can do with this stuff anything you’d do with any pepper jelly. Personally, I’ve been putting it on toast that’s topped with a good Spanish olive oil. It’s also a great thing to use to deglaze your pan after sautéing fresh scallops, or to accompany roast pork, lamb or duck. Hmmm . . . better still, I’m going to try using it to deglaze a pan after I sauté up some fresh pork liver. For lunch, I’m thinking almond butter and Piquillo pepper jelly sandwiches would be pretty superb. And of course, for one of the easiest and all time best hors d’oeuvres put it atop some of that hand made cream cheese from the Creamery.

This post is part of a series of Ari’s Best Foods of 2011.