Dried Choricero Peppers
Dried Choricero Peppers (cho-ree-SER-oh), Capsicum annuum, are a beloved ingredient in Spain, particularly in the Basque region of northern Spain. They’re also known as the pimiento choricero, chorizo pepper or the cuerno de cabra chile. Sweet and mild Choricero were traditionally used in the preparation of Spanish chorizo sausage, which is significantly less spicy than Mexican Chorizo. In the Basque language of Euskara they’re called the txorixero pepper, which you will see in use in Basque diaspora communities, like the one in Boise, Idaho.
There are approximately 2 Dried Choricero Peppers per ounce.
What Are Dried Choricero Peppers?
Dried Choricero Peppers are long peppers, often between 7-8 inches in length, and 2-3 inches across. Choricero Peppers are rarely found fresh outside of Spain, where they are occasionally picked while green and fried. They are most often allowed to ripen to a deep ruby red. Then they’re strung in clusters called ristras and hung along the outsides of houses, to dry in the sun.
Sweet and fruity Choricero Peppers were originally used in the making of chorizo sausage; the word choricero translates roughly as “chorizo thing”. The Choricero Pepper figures prominently in traditional Basque recipes, particularly in the regions that border the Bay of Biscay. This pepper is a close relative of the Piment d’Esplette, an AOC-designated pepper that’s grown just across the border, in southern France.
History of Dried Choricero Peppers
The Age of Discovery, also called the Age of Exploration, started early in the 15th century and continued through the 18th century. Between 1492 and 1504, Christopher Columbus captained four transatlantic trips from Spain to the Americas. It is generally accepted that chile peppers arrived in Europe with Christopher Columbus’s return from his second trip to the Americas, in 1496. It was most likely Diego Alvarez Chanca, a physician who traveled with Columbus’s crew, who actually gathered the peppers to bring back, so he could study their spicy qualities and medicinal properties. Initially described as fearsome because of their inner heat, it’s likely that Columbus brought back peppers that were part of the Capsicum chinense family. C. chinense generally tend to be squat, round peppers that hold fiery heat—like the infamous Habanero Pepper—and were the predominant kind that were grown in the West Indies when Columbus made land.
The world was in a period of massive change at that time; all the major seafaring countries were looking to expand their empires. Literal boatloads of conquistadores followed Columbus’s route to the New World, looking to see what was beyond the new lands he’d found. These Spanish and Portuguese colonizers pushed forward into Mexico and the countries of South America, where they found even more varieties of pepper to put into European hands, including several types of Capsicum annuum. This family of peppers, of which the Choricero is a member, display an enormously wide range of heat and colors, though they tend to be longer than they are wide and taper at the end. Though the following rounds of peppers were milder than the ones that came before them, they suffered guilt by spicy association and were considered ornamental trifles, but not much more. Chile peppers were instead sent to Spanish and Portuguese monasteries, where the monks grew them out of medicinal and academic interest. They were among the first in Europe to discover the prolific nature of peppers, and their tendency to naturally cross-breed, developing new pepper varietals and—most importantly—lower, European-friendly heat levels. Hieronymite monks in provincial Extremadura’s Yuste monastery, located near the border of Spain and Portugal, dried peppers for their flavor and for their ability to preserve food, since the capsaicin in peppers is has antifungal and antimicrobial properties. They then shared this knowledge with their fellow monks across the Iberian peninsula.
Yuste was a royal residence as well as a monastery, and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V retired to Yuste when he abdicated his crowns, turning the Spanish throne to one son and the Holy Roman Empire to another. Charles V was known for his love of food, and took to this new spice when the monks served it to him. He requested that they send the peppers to his sister, Queen Mary of Hungary. Chile peppers made their way through Europe via a Catholic network, traveling across the Mediterranean to countries like Italy. Germany, in the midst of a Protestant reform, was unconcerned with what was going on in Catholic monasteries and were not a part of the European pepper trade at the time. Neither was England, which was busy removing itself from the oversight of the Catholic Church as it established the Church of England under the reign of Henry VIII.
Choricero Peppers were developed in Navarro, what was once a kingdom within the Basque region and is now an autonomous community and province of northern Spain. They are in line with the prevailing cultural preferences of the region—they are playfully rich, sweet-to-bittersweet flavor and have an unobtrusive heat that doesn’t dominate the flavor of the pepper itself. Terroir plays a large factor in the flavor of this pepper; Choricero Peppers grown closer to the coast, in a wet and humid maritime climate with cool nights and warm-but-not-hot summers, tend to be extremely mild. Those grown further inland in the mountainous and minerally Rioja region develop a bit more of a chile pepper pinch, though neither get very hot.
Choricero Pepper Cultivation
Like any plant that originated in a semi-tropical zone, Choricero plants do best in warm, sunny climates. It grows well in acidic to neutral soil, with a pH that ranges between 5.6 and 7.5. These plants can grow three or four feet tall, and should be planted at least one foot apart. Germination should be done indoors, ideally in warm-to-hot soil (75-85°F). Once the seeds have germinated they reach maturity in 70-80 days, turning from pale green to deep, ruby red when ripe. One plant can yield between 15-30 peppers in a growing season. Harvest by twisting gently at the stem to see if it comes right off; if it does not, then cut the stem close to the pepper, to avoid damaging the rest of the plant. After harvesting, Choricero Peppers are strung in long clusters called ristras and hung along the sides of buildings to dry in the sun; this process is still done today.
Where Are Our Dried Choricero Peppers from?
What Do Our Dried Choricero Peppers Taste Like?
Sweet and earthy, the Dried Choricero Pepper delivers all the rich flavor of dried stone fruits without the intrusion of heat. This pepper has a gentle fragrance, emitting a light, almost floral smell that you won’t get until you get close to it. At first taste, this pepper has notes of dried cherries and raisins, with a sweet resonance of sun-dried tomatoes. The fruit gives way to an earthy minerality and ends with a sweet-and-bitter final flavor.
Are Dried Choricero Peppers spicy?
Dried Choricero Peppers are not spicy. They range between 175-300 Scoville Heat Units.
How to use Dried Choricero Peppers
Unless you’re going to grind the dried peppers into powder, you will most likely want to toast the peppers in a dry pan for about thirty seconds and then rehydrate them. Use them in Vegetable Jalfrezi instead of Bell Pepper Flakes for a richer flavor. Choricero Peppers go beautifully with seafood, and are traditionally used in a Salsa Vizcaina (“Biscay Salsa”), a flavorful red sauce made with Choricero Peppers, onions, and garlic. It is often served with bacalao—salt cod—or sea bass. You could also add some to Crab Chowder or try your hand at marmitako, a traditional Basque stew with tuna and potatoes. Add diced Choricero across the top of Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage and Roasted Vegetables just before serving. Simmer in with Spiced Lentils or add to your favorite lentil soup or vegetable stew. Grind to a powder and stir into mayonnaise for a fragrant aioli you can dip vegetables in.
Choricero Pepper Substitute
Some people suggest Ancho Chiles as a substitute for Choricero Peppers, but that should be approached with some caveats. Anchos, while still mild, have a higher heat range than the Choricero, clocking in between 500-1500 SHU. They also have a significantly deep, chocolatey flavor, which is a different profile than the playful, fruity Choricero. If you choose Ancho Chiles, start with about half as much as the recipe calls for and adjust accordingly. You can substitute bell pepper for Dried Choricero Peppers but they are not as overtly fruity. Nora Chiles, another Spanish pepper, are slightly—slightly—hotter, measuring 500 on the Scoville heat scale. They share a similarly fruity intensity with Choricero Peppers, though aficionados of them both will insist that only a Choricero will do, if a Choricero is what is called for.
One Dried Choricero Pepper will yield approximately one Tablespoon of ground powder.
|Ingredients||Choricero Dried Pepper|
|Also Called||Chorizo pepper, cuerno de cabra chile, txorixero pepper|
|Recommended Uses||Grind into powder. Rehydrate and stuff, slice, or grind to paste and fold into sausage.|
|Flavor Profile||Mild and sweet, with a strong cherry and raisin flavor and a bitter finish|
|Scoville Heat Units||175-300|
|Botanical Name||Capsicum annuum|
|Cuisine||Basque, Spanish, Mediterranean|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 Years|
|Country of Origin||Spain|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free, Non-GMO|
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Serving Size1 pepper
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*