Fans of piquillo peppers take note: cristal peppers may blow your mind.
They come from the same area in Spain—Navarre—as the piquillo peppers we’ve sold for years. But that’s where the similarities end. Cristal peppers are exceedingly rare, delicate and filled with so much flavor you’ll think they were injected with something. When roasted, the paper-thin flesh is scraped off with tiny knives. One six-ounce jar starts out as one kilo of raw peppers. I haven't seen the process, but my bet is that’s a lot of scraping.
Smoky, velvety rich and decadently buttery. Eat them straight from the jar, warmed, with a touch of sea salt and a bit of good olive oil. A loaf of paesano on the side wouldn't hurt. Zingerman's founder Ari calls them the "foie gras of the pepper world." I think they're the best pepper I’ve ever eaten. I think we’re both right.
Zingerman's Food Tours is visiting Spain in October 2014. Join us for a behind the scenes journey to traditional food makers like this.