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Urfa Biber Chile Peppers
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Urfa Biber chile peppers have an elongated bell pepper shape. At maturity, they are 4 to 6 inches long and around 2 inches wide. The peppers mature from a dark green to a deep red color. The flavor of an Urfa Biber chile pepper is often described as raisin-like, with a slight sweetness. The heat is mild when fresh, but when cured and dried can rise to 30,000-50,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Urfa Biber chile peppers are available in the summer and fall months.
Urfa Biber chile peppers are from the town of Urfa in south Turkey. The word "biber" is Turkish for "pepper." Urfa Biber peppers are botanically classified as Capsicum annuum, and are sometimes called Isot peppers. Urfa Biber peppers primarily grow in the southern region of Turkey. Since 2013, civil war to the south in Syria has caused greater demand for the Urfa Biber, due to limited availability for its main competitor, the Aleppo chile pepper. Crushed Urfa Biber has gained popularity with chefs in Europe and North America for its unique ability to pair well with cinnamon, chocolate and ginger.
Urfa Biber chile peppers are high in vitamins C and A, and contain high amounts of potassium, iron and B-complex vitamins. The spicy peppers contain capsaicin, the compound responsible for the burning sensation on the tongue and in the soft tissues of the mouth. Capsaicin has anti-inflammatory properties and also works as a pain reliever by releasing endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. Chile peppers contain antioxidants and have been studied for their cancer-fighting benefits.
Urfa Biber chile peppers are traditionally cured, sun dried and crushed to make chile powder. The fresh peppers are used to flavor lamb dishes in Turkey and are commonly found skewered alongside chunks of lamb or other meats for kabobs. Urfa Biber chile peppers can be grilled, roasted, or stuffed. Their mild heat is well-suited for sautéing with tomatoes or eggplant, or with onions to serve with sausages or other meats. Rinse peppers under cool water and pat dry before preparing. Store Urfa Biber chile peppers in the refrigerator for up to a week.
In Turkey, Urfa Biber peppers are cured for a week after they are harvested. They are left out to dry in the sun, then are covered to “sweat.” During this process, the pepper develops a deep purple color and a smoky flavor that is frequently described using the words chocolate, tobacco, coffee and earthy. The peppers are crushed and jarred. The resulting ‘powder’ has an oily consistency that is not typical of most chile powders. Crushed Urfa Biber is most often used to season lamb, roasted vegetables, and other savory dishes.
Urfa Biber chile peppers are native to the southern region of Turkey, in the Middle East. Urfa Biber peppers are sometimes confused with the more famous Aleppo peppers, from just over the southern border in Syria, which have a similar appearance but a more intense spice. Some say that Urfa Biber growers try to disguise their own peppers as Aleppo to get a better price. Urfa Biber chile peppers can be found outside of the Middle East, at local farmer’s markets and in dried or crushed form in specialty stores.