I spent some time this evening threading today’s gathering of Espelette peppers onto strings so they could be hung up to dry. I’ve developed a method which seems to work – I thread some thin crochet cotton onto a bodkin, tie a loop with a knot into the other end and thread the peppers on by passing the needle through the thick ends of the stalks. I tie a simple knot between each pepper to keep them apart as they dry. When there are eight or nine on a string I make a loop in the free end of the thread and hang the strings around the kitchen. Because we have a very dry climate here they dry well and in a few months’ time will be ready to grind in an old coffee grinder (after removing the seeds to save for next year’s crop). Eight of them make enough paprika to fill a small jar. The summer’s crop keeps us in paprika through the winter – we’re still finishing last year’s. Of all the varieties of pepper we grow these seem the least susceptible to being eaten by bugs and snails – maybe they don’t like the peppery taste!
Some I did earlier: the darker ones are last year’s dried peppers, the brighter red ones are from earlier this summer and are partly dry now. As you can see I labelled them ‘Espelette’ although really they shouldn’t be called that as they weren’t grown in the village of that name in the French Basque country which has an appellation d’origine controlée for its peppers. I bought a string of them in the village a few years ago and since then have saved seeds each year from the ones we’ve grown. I think this variety makes the best paprika – spicy but not too hot.