Red Design of Hot Calabrian Peppers

11.02.2020

If you want to know the true colors and appreciate the Authentic Mediterranean Food, you have to discover the natural design and taste of Hot Red Chili Peppers from Calabria.

This intense red color can be found in Calabria, a fertile land, ingenious, rich, ravished by the scent of pines, of white firs and of sea weeds, friendly, but where nature often seems to challenge man with its wild contrasts between mountain and marine environment.

Its natural beauties of great value blend with typical specialities and here ‘Its Majesty’, Calabrian Hot Chili pepper, is palatable and enhances the most simple flavours, playing the role of lord and master.

These hot chili peppers are native to Calabria, Italy, in the southern part of the country. Calabrian chili peppers are considered the “classic” Italian hot pepper. The region of Calabria, Italy, is in the southern part of the country, in the “toe” of the boot.

Calabrian Chili Peppers are members of the nightshade botanic family, also related to tomatoes and to eggplants. The Mediterranean climate is ideal for these small, round, fruity and spicy peppers.

COLORS AND NUTRITIONAL FEATURES

The only thing bolder than their flavor is their rich red color. These Hot peppers has all varieties: small, big, spicy, fruity, smoky, sweet and salty.

Calabrian chili peppers, like other members of “Capsicum annuum” contain high amounts of vitamin C, higher than citrus.

Chili peppers also contain

  • vitamins A and B-6,
  • potassium,
  • iron and
  • magnesium.

The spicier hot peppers contain capsaicin, which has been shown to help stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems. Capsaicin is also researched for its potential as a cancer fighting drug.

THE SHAPE

Calabrian chili peppers are generally round, with a bulbous shape, approximately the size of a large cherry. They mature to a bright, glossy red and have a short, squat stem.

Calabrian chili peppers are available late summer through fall. During these seasons, Calabrian chili peppers develop the best spice and smoky fruit notes, when left to age and picked when they start to show a slightly red exterior.

They are considered a medium spicy chili pepper, ranging from 25,000 to 40,000 “Scoville” units (the measure unit of spicy taste).

The Calabrian chili pepper is a variety of Capsicum annuum native to Calabria, Italy and often found

  • dried,
  • pickled
  • or stuffed and packed in olive oil.

It is a common component to all classic Italian antipasto platters. The small pepper is often referred to as the:

  • Hot Calabrian chili pepper, small red cherry, and
  • “Devil’s Kiss”.

Both they are the best known hot pepper in Italy. The preferred name in Italian is “Peperoncino Piccante Calabrese“, which translates the usual expression ‘Hot spicy pepper of Calabria’.

THE HISTORY

Very few people knows that Pepper varieties of Capsicum annuum originated in what is now Central and South America and the Caribbean, or what Christopher Columbus referred to as the “West Indies.”

It was Columbus, who brought the first peppers back from his travels, thinking they were related to black pepper, or Piper nigrum, one of the most coveted spices from the Indies.

Afterwards, from Spain and Portugal, varieties of Capsicum annuum spread across the Mediterranean (also Calabria) and across the Arabian Peninsula to India and then into China.RECIPES

A particular recipe is that of Hot Calabrian chili peppers traditionally stuffed with chunks of tuna and kept in jars of olive oil. These small, but spicy peppers are good for stuffing. The cooking will mellow the spicy taste, but the flavor of the pepper will enhance the internal stuffing of meats, anchovies and capers, or cheeses.

In Calabria, these small, round, spicy peppers are also stuffed with a mix of local tuna and bread crumbs, into jars of olive oil to preserve them. The peppers are packaged and sold online and at Italian specialty stores.

Calabrian chili peppers can also be pickled in a vinegar brine.

Here three simple recipes:
1. Remove the stem and top, scooping the seeds out with a spoon, then slice Calabrian chili peppers and sauté for topping burgers or steaks.
2. Chop Calabrian chili peppers and toss with spinach or broccoli and garlic for a quick sauté.
3. Use Calabrian chili peppers as a primary ingredient in “Pasta all’arrabbiata”, a dish of pasta with tomato sausage, rich of spicy peppers seeds.

The crispy peppers of Tortora, so called “Zafarana”

3.11.2019

Discovering the Zafarana or those red peppers, sweet and not at all spicy, with the characteristic shape of a goat’s horn, which once dried and cooked, have the peculiarity of being crispy. It is the tastiest fruit of summer vegetables.

Perhaps some will know the Senise peppers, others the Roggian peppers in the province of Cosenza. But still few know of the existence of Zafarana di Tortora, the first town in north-western Calabria, on the border with Basilicata. Here, for years, the youngest tell, the grandmothers baked “nzerte of zaferana” (wreaths of peppers) when they made bread, to then obtain the powder for use in the kitchen. Those same grandmothers who today look at their astonished grandchildren who return to their country just to cultivate zaferana, like some agronomists come from abroad. Because yes, in Tortora that much-vaunted return to youth farming is anything but a chimera or an illusion. It’s all true, with real names and faces and with a precise purpose: to enhance the Zafarana of Tortora.

Nzerte (wreaths) of Zafarana

FROM BRAZIL TO CALABRIA

Both that of Senise, that of Roggiano Gravina and Tortora peppers are part of the same family, or of those red peppers, sweet and not at all spicy, with the characteristic shape of a goat’s horn, which once dried and cooked, for their peculiarity of being crunchy, are justly called “cruschi” (crispy). Originating in Brazil, they are known in Italy and Calabria after the discovery of America and find their ideal habitat in the mild climate between Calabria and Basilicata, in that special soil of the most hilly areas.

Among the three tipology of peppers (Senise, Roggian and Tortora) there is no competition, on the contrary: there is a constructive relationship of collaboration and mutual support, all the farmers are aimed at making the world know about a product that is still so little known.

THE SAFFRON OF THE POOR

What differentiates the Zafarana from Tortora is that, having a slightly thinner skin, it tends to have less water stagnation and therefore lend itself more to drying. The name obviously brings us back to saffron: it derives from the same Arabic root of zafran, because the red color of the powdered zafarana is reminiscent of that of the crocus sativus. The latter is the well-known species of flowering plant of the Crocus genus in the iris family Iridaceae, famous for producing the spice saffron, from the filaments that grow inside the flower.

In reality, however, it is a very different product in terms of taste and cost, this is why it has been nicknamed “the saffron of the poor” because it is always present on the Tortorese tables. Here, in fact, every family has cultivated its zafarana since ancient times, so much so that in a church of the town a fresco of 1628 was found where it is depicted among eggplants and oranges.

Tortora, the town of Zafarana

The association La Zafarana di Tortora, with its president Giuseppe Limongi, a professional ceramist, tries to protect such an ancient product and to ensure that it remains a very small niche production. He told: “I am a deep lover of art and nature, and zaferana is nothing but a wonderful form of art present in nature“.

A LONG AND COMPLEX CULTIVATION

Tradition has it that the production of zaferana begins in March, during the week of Saint Joseph. Later, in April, when the seedlings are born, they are put in a seedbed until June; then the best are selected and planted in the fields between June and July. Harvesting can begin in August and also end in December depending on the weather.

Finally, once collected, they are twisted making a small hole with a needle one behind the other in the typical “nzerte” (wreaths ), or those braids of peppers that you see hanging in the houses, at the windows, on the balconies. The important thing is that they are ventilated and dry places, not exposed to the sun, but always in the shade and without humidity. So that they can last for months, even a year.

Then it can be eaten either fried (cooking lasts for a few seconds) in a pan, or in powder.

THE ZAFARANA IN THE KITCHEN

The typical way to cook zafarana is to use the powder (so called “pisata“) for cooking bolied potatoes (the plate is called “patane cca zaferana pisata“). The powder is also associated to consumption of oil, garlic and salt, paired with bread, eggs or dried figs.

Today the peppers are used in many ways in the kitchen, but the most recommended is to taste them alone, fried in a pan.  The second one can instead try the classic combination with cod, just as you traditionally eat the Senise pepper in Basilicata.

Zafarana Powder

Once powdered, however, one of the most traditional combinations is to sprinkle it over pasta such as lagane and chickpeas or spaghetti with garlic and oil, but also directly into fusilli or tagliatelle.

Alternatively, zaferana can also be added during the preparation of bread or biscuits. Also perfect on the second course: on the fried egg, on the meat with a drizzle of oil, or on the fish, since it also favors conservation.

Finally, why not try a nice risotto made exclusively with zafarana?

ZAFARANAFEST

To taste the zafarana in all its forms, it is worthwhile going to the party that the association La Zafarana di Tortora has been organizing for ten years every first weekend of October, at the end of the harvest.

This is also the right occasion to learn a lot about this product: In addition to food and goliardic aspects, much importance is given to cultural aspects, with conferences on the benefits of zaferana, with interesting projects with schools and so on.

Further, this is also an opportunity to visit the town of Tortora, with a truly enviable historic center, like the nearby and delicious village of “Aieta“.