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Smoked paprika

Smoked paprika is a ground spice that is often used in Spanish cuisine. The variety Pimentón de la Vera is made using only peppers grown in the La Vera region.

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Smoked paprika is a ground spice from Spain. It gives cold and warm dishes a spicy smoked flavor. It is also used as a natural preservative. The powder has a slightly shiny, red color. However, the color as well as the taste and flavor of the spice are largely a result of the production process.

General information about paprika:

From Wikipedia: “Paprika (US English more commonly Listeni/pəˈpriːkə/, British English more commonly Listeni/ˈpæprɪkə/) is a ground spice made from red air-dried fruits of the larger and sweeter varieties of the plant Capsicum annuum, called bell pepper or sweet pepper, sometimes with the addition of more pungent varieties, called chili peppers, and cayenne pepper. In many languages, but not English, the word paprika also refers to the plant and the fruit from which the spice is made.

Although paprika is often associated with Hungarian cuisine, the peppers from which it is made are native to the New World and were later introduced to the Old World. Originating in central Mexico, paprika was brought to Spain in the 16th century. The seasoning is also used to add color to many types of dishes.
The trade in paprika expanded from the Iberian Peninsula to Africa and Asia, and ultimately reached Central Europe through the Balkans, then under Ottoman rule, which explains the Hungarian origin of the English term. In Spanish, paprika has been known as pimentón since the 16th century, when it became a typical ingredient of western Extremadura. Despite its presence in Central Europe since the beginning of Ottoman conquests, it did not become popular in Hungary until the late 19th century.

Paprika can range from mild to hot – the flavor also varies from country to country – but almost all plants grown produce the sweet variety. Sweet paprika is mostly composed of the pericarp, with more than half of the seeds Cremoved, whereas hot paprika contains some seeds, stalks, placentas, and calyces. The red, orange or yellow color of paprika is due to its content of carotenoids.”

Production and varieties of Pimentón de la Vera:

Peppers grow well in the La Vera region of Spain, which is located in the northern part of the Cáceres province at the foot of the Sierra de Gredos. Right after the harvest, they are smoked on a dry surface over oak wood for about a week, during which time they are regularly rotated. The oak wood comes from the holm oak tree. After drying, the smoked peppers are ground to a fine red powder. Traditionally, the farmers are careful to remove the cores and stems and not grind them. The grinding process is repeated up to five times until the desired degree of fineness is achieved.

The finished ground paprika is then packed into tin cans that preserve the flavor particularly well. Each can has a seal that shows its origin as the Denominación de Origen Pimentón de la Vera.

“... Spanish paprika (pimentón) is available in three versions—mild (pimentón dulce), moderately spicy (pimentón agridulce), and very spicy (pimentón picante). Some Spanish paprika, like pimentón de la Vera, has a distinct smoky flavor and aroma as it is dried by smoking, typically using oak wood.”

Culinary uses:

“Paprika is used as an ingredient in numerous dishes throughout the world. It is principally used to season and color rices, stews, and soups, such as goulash, and in the preparation of sausages, mixed with meats and other spices. In the United States, paprika is frequently sprinkled raw on foods as a garnish, but the flavor is more effectively pronounced by heating it in oil.

Hungarian paprika is often specified in recipes because it is unique. It is bright red and said to be sweeter than the same paprika grown in other soils and climates. In paprikash (paprika gravy: a combination of broth, paprika, and sour cream), Hungarian paprika is commonly used. In Moroccan cuisine, paprika (tahmira) is usually augmented by the addition of a small amount of olive oil blended into it.”

Carotenoids:

“The red, orange or yellow color of paprika powder derives from its mix of carotenoids. Yellow-orange paprika colors derive primarily from α-carotene and β-carotene (provitamin A compounds), zeaxanthin, lutein and β-cryptoxanthin, whereas red colors derive from capsanthin and capsorubin.”

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