Earlier this week we introduced you to peperoni cruschi. Now the exploration continues. From friends in Maierà – where the famous Peperoncino Museum is located – we were invited to a restaurant where those crispy peppers were just one of many delicious appetizers. Since we were so enthusiastic about them, our friends gave us a treccia of dried Dolce Calabrese so that we could fix those crispy peppers back home.
The dried peperoni are cleaned of dust etc. with a dry cloth or kitchen paper, never with a damp one. The oil temperature should be 155 to 160°C (310 to 320 F). We found it best to use a small uncoated pan.
The frying takes just a few seconds: Dip the peppers into the simmering olive oil, count 1-2-3, turn them, 1-2-3 – done! We recommend frying them one by one.
You can tell that the peppers are fried enough when they inflate. Just don’t leave it in the fat for too long, otherwise they will become bitter or even charred.
Then quickly remove the peppers and put them on a plate with kitchen paper to drain. After a few minutes, they become even crispier.
Important: After frying, don’t forget to remove the pan from the stove!
You can either fry the whole pods, or break out the stem and remove the inner part with the seeds. We have tried both variants and will probably use the first one in the future.
To keep your Peperoni Cruschi crispy, it is recommended to keep them in an airtight container or a Zip-type plastic bag after cooling.
Tasty tip from the Basilicata: Fry some thin cut potato slices in the same oil, drain also on kitchen paper towel, salt lightly immediately. Together with the crispy peppers a great snack!
Using Other Pepper Varieties
In addition to Peperoni di Senise or Dolce Calabrese, other sweet pepper varieties can be fried into peperoni cruschi, such as Hungarian spicy peppers or New Mexican chiles (generic term “Hatch Chiles”) such as Sandia, NuMex Heritage 6-4 or NuMex Big Jim. The pods should be thin-fleshed, matured to red (or different colors depending on the variety), and dried well. In northern latitudes that requires most of the time the use of an electric dehydrator, otherwise harmful mold quickly forms in whole fruits – Northern Europe (and not even northern Italy) or the northern United States are just not Calabria, Basilicata, Apulia, or New Mexico.
Commercial Peperoni Cruschi Products
If you’re not into frying your own peppers, you can buy the crispy Kruskis already fried and sealed airtight as a finished product. For example, a search on amazon.it for peperoni + cruschi resulted in a large number of such products. Attention: There are also suppliers in the Basilicata offering “Peperoni Cruschi” for frying at home (labeled “da friggere”). They still have to go to the frying pan. You can usually recognize them by the packaging of transparent plastic bags – just dried peppers.
We have ordered and tested the store-bought Peperone Cruschi shown in the photo. Novafood’s “Cruskees” from Potenza (Basilicata) are available in two versions – traditionally fried in oil and lightly salted, and baked “without anything” in the oven (al forno). The “iCruschi” by Azienda Agricola Belfiore Massimo from Matera (also Basilicata) are also traditional as well. All three variants come without stems and inner life, cut into larger pieces, ready to munch.
We liked all three products and – like chips – there’s a certain risk of addiction. If you want to use them in other dishes (including sweet ones), the oven-baked Cruskees are recommended because they don’t contain salt. The other two are great in pasta dishes, for example; here you should be careful with additional salt.
If you’d like to try the famous Peperoni di Senise and the dishes prepared with them on location, a trip to the beautiful Basilicata region is recommended. Some areas there are strongly reminiscent of the southwestern United States; others appear truly Mediterranean, with countless old olive trees.
At harvest time starting in August, the red fruits are shining from the fields. There are not too many accommodations in this part of the Basilicata, which is not (yet) much developed for tourism. Therefore be advised to turn check out tour guides in time. While there, you should also take a look at Matera, European Capital of Culture in 2019. Culinary, the versatile region offers a full-bodied red wine called Aglianico del Vulture, tasty dried beans (Fagioli di Sarconi), as well as bread, sausage and cheese specialties. And of course those famous Peperoni di Senise…
A Basilicata trip could be combined with a visit of the Peperoncino Festival in Diamante in the no less beautiful Italian region of Calabria, which takes place every year in early September. While there, should definitely visit the Peperoncino Museum in the nearby mountain village of Maierà; the winding ride up is rewarded with a great panoramic view over the Tyrrhenian Sea.
In addition to the mild Dolce Calabrese, there are also hot chile peppers at the tip of Italy. Their Scoville values does not come close to the record holders, but they have good fire and the typical peperoncino flavor of the region. There are many local products made with those pepperoncini, often called “Diavolini” or “Viagra dei poveri” (poor man’s Viagra).
But first, have fun trying those fantastic Peperoni Cruschi and enjoy!
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