Altınözü pepper (also referred to as ceylanboynuzu pepper) is known among its people as “deerhorn” pepper due to its very long shape (up to 30-40 cm long). Stem of this pepper is large and tip of it is narrow. It has a thin skin, and this generates the best condition for the drying process as the thin skin prevents it from dissolving. As it is the case for other good peppers, it gives the hot taste when it is in the mouth and then it dissolves until it reaches the stomach. It is believed that this variety was brought in the region by Jewish merchants through the Venetian’s route.
Altınözü, as one of the very first stops of pepper in the Ottoman land, own the precious kind of pepper that is kept alive for centuries. Still today, pepper remains a main economic source of livelihood for farmers. They are usually dried after harvest (baş biber), and then processed to become an essential ingredient in many local dishes, from pilaf – steamed cooked rice – to kofte – the traditional Turkish meatballs. They can be transformed into flakes using large wood mortars or rehydrated and stuffed and cooked in pots. Pepper paste is also a widely used product in culinary practices in the Mediterranean region of Turkey. Traditionally, whole or divided dried peppers are soaked in water and swaged in large wood mortars. By nature, pepper easily intercrops with other varieties of pepper, hence losing its original features. For this reason, the product is facing a risk of losing its historical value.
As a result, In the Antakya region, a handful of producers keep replicating the original seeds and succeeded, and succeeded in preserving this ancient variety, but the Altınözü pepper is under the threat of losing its historical and gastronomic importance.