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The Aleppo pepper is a variety of Capsicum annuum used as a spice, particularly in Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisine. Also known as the Halaby pepper, it starts as pods, which ripen to a burgundy color, and then are semi-dried, de-seeded, then crushed or coarsely ground.
The pepper’s unique flavor has much to do with the way it is cured, said Marlene Matar, the author of “The Aleppo Cookbook.”
According to the New York Times, “The preparation of Aleppo ground pepper is a long process,” Ms. Matar wrote by email from her home in Beirut, Lebanon, describing one traditional way to produce the spice. “It is not washed, but cleaned with pieces of white cloth then cut lengthwise on one side only and the seeds are removed. Then the pepper is placed on the rooftop to dry in the sun.”
While large Syrian food companies, such as Durra, rely on several thousand families to produce and sell Aleppo pepper, processing the spice is traditionally a small-scale affair, with family members and neighbors gathering to prepare the peppers.
When partly dried, the naturally oily peppers are coarsely ground and mixed with a bit of salt and olive oil, then left to dry completely. This produces ruby-red, slightly salty flakes that keep well in the freezer thanks to the oil and are distinctively Syrian, Ms. Matar wrote.
“In Arabic, the Aleppo red pepper is called ‘Baladi,’ meaning it belongs to my country,” she wrote.
The spice is a common ingredient in some of the dishes that comprise a meze. Use on chicken, pizza, meat, pasta, salad, vegetables, potato salad, eggs and steak.