A pepper in a jar becomes a gastronomic star when it’s a genuine pimiento del piquillo from Spain. These pimientos (the Spanish word for all kinds of peppers, though in English it refers only to cooked red peppers) are strictly artisan products; they’re harvested in the northeast region of Navarra, fire-roasted, hand-peeled, and usually packed without preservatives. The flavor is so sublime that even four-star restaurants in Spain use them right from the jar.
Gently piquant, these thin-fleshed pimientos del piquillo are not more than four inches long, and their slender shape narrows to a slightly twisted peak—piquillo in Spanish. They’re marvelous on their own, lightly sautéed with a touch of garlic and extra-virgin olive oil, or used in countless preparations. In Spain, they’re often stuffed with meat, fish, or vegetables and bathed in a variety of sauces.
All piquillo peppers (pronounced pee-KEE-yoh), however, aren’t created equal. Two of the best brands are available through the mail: El Navarrico comes in 225g jars (about half a pound) for $10 (from Zingerman’s); and Almanaque comes in 230g jars for $5.50 and 285g jars for $6.50 (from The Spanish Table).