Spanish Paprika, is There a Difference?
The difference between paprika found on the shelf your local grocery store and Spanish sweet smoked paprika such as La Dalia's Pimentón de La Vera is significant. Run of the mill paprika has a mild flavor and is best suited as a garnish or color enhancer while Spanish smoked paprika brings a burst of rich, smokey flavor to any dish- meats, eggs, rice, stews... even pasta! The key is found in the careful cultivation and preparation of only the finest peppers- a practice employed by Spanish artisans for centuries.
Paprika's Spicy History
Paprika was first produced in Spain centuries ago with the discovery of peppers from the New World. Dried and smoked peppers were ground into a silky powder that flavors much of Spanish food to this day. Today, there are several varieties available throughout the country, generally known as pimentón. One of the most popular paprikas is pimentón ahumado which has a distinct smoky flavor and aroma that is derived from the process of slow smoking over oak wood. Smoked paprika is available in mild, regular and spicy flavors. In Spanish these are known as pimentón dulce (sweet smoked paprika), pimentón agridulce (bittersweet smoked paprika) and pimentón picante (hot smoked paprika).
Paprika is a powder ground from the Capsicum annum pepper (for the sweet paprika) and the cerasiforme subspecies (for the bittersweet paprika). The peppers are smoked over fires of holm oak, before being stone-ground into a fine red powder.
Pimentón de La Vera and Pimentón de La Dalia
Red peppers have been produced in the Extremadura region of La Vera in Spain for centuries, with cultivation beginning in the Yuste Monastery around the 16th century. The paprika made from these peppers was the first seasoning to attain the coveted status of Denomination of Origin (D.O.) - a guarantee of the quality and consistency of the paprika produced in the region. This paprika is now officially called Pimentón de La Vera. La Dalia brand pimentón was the first to gain this coveted status.
Smoky Paprika as an Ingredient in Cooking
Paprika is used as an ingredient in many dishes throughout Spain. It is used mainly to season and color rices, stews, guisos and soups as well as in the preparation of Spanish sausage products such as chorizo and sobrasada, where it is blended with other spices to add flavor and color.
Paprika is a popular ingredient in many Spanish recipes. The Spanish will swear by Pimentón de la Vera or their Pimentón de la Dalia. Peppers are slow smoked on oak wood fires for several weeks to achieve a sweet, smoky flavor that adds a unique touch to rice dishes, Spanish bean stews, potatoes, fish dishes and chickpea stews. For an authentic Spanish taste, sweet smoked paprika is an essential ingredient!
Not to be confused with the bland paprika powders from the local grocery store, Spanish sweet smoked paprika packs a real punch that adds the authentic taste to Spanish paellas as well as seasoning for most Spanish pork dishes such as lomo (tenderloin) and chorizo. Or course, it can also be used for barbecue pork, kebabs and lamb stews.
Paprika Nutritional Information
The capsicum peppers used to make paprika are a great source of vitamin C. Sweet Paprika is also high in other antioxidants, containing about 10% of the levels found in acai berries.