Peperoni cruschi are made from long, red peppers called Senise peppers, which only grow in the small area around the village of Senise, in the southern region of Basilicata. Senise peppers have a very thin skin and a low water content which makes them ideal for drying naturally in the warm Italian sunshine.
When the peppers are ripe they become a beautiful, deep red colour and the skin is taut and glossy. From late July through to September the peppers are painstakingly picked, by hand, before being strung like necklaces on fine string. They are then hung outside to dry for 20 to 25 days during the remainder of the summer months.
They are grown, dried and made into peperoni cruschi commercially, but, there are not many houses around the area that do not have strings of their own Senise peppers hanging out to dry.
Once dried, the peppers are then deep fried in extra virgin olive oil before being lightly salted. The result is 'Peperoni Cruschi', exceptionally crispy, rich tasting peppers which can be eaten alone, as a snack, or can be added to many typical Italian dishes.
In Basilicata, they are most commonly served as part of the traditional, large array of antipasti dishes which are served up in local restaurants. They are also crushed up and added to, or sprinkled onto, many of the typical Basilicatan pasta dishes.
Peperoni Cruschi were first made as a way of preserving summer vegetables for the winter months. As long as they are kept in an airtight tin they will not lose their crispiness or flavour.