Pimentón de la Vera
Smoked Spanish paprika, also known as pimentón de la Vera, is a powdered seasoning and colouring agent made from the sweet red peppers of the species Capsicum annuum, grown in the La Vera region, in Western Spain.
It has an intense flavour and colour, with a smoky and earthy aroma. It is available in three grades, with varying levels of sweetness and heat, depending on the cultivar used and parts of the pod (fruit) used, in preparation.
- Sweet (pimentón dulce) is slightly sweet with very little heat.
- Semi-sweet (pimentón agridulce) is bittersweet and medium hot with just a trace of sweetness.
- Hot (pimentón picante) very hot with just a trace of bitterness. It is piquant and flavourful, but not as fiery as cayenne.
Sweet paprika, smoked or unsmoked, is by far, the most widely used spice in Spanish cooking.
Semi-sweet (agridulce) is also used in cooking and the bittersweet taste adds complexity to dishes.
The hot (picante), paprika is mainly used in charcuterie products and in marinades, sauces and rubs for meat and fish.
Production and Smoking of Paprika
In the La Vera region of Spain the peppers are still hand-picked, and slowly smoked over smouldering chunks of wild holm oak, over a period of two weeks. The peppers absorb a pleasingly smoky flavour from the fires.
From the smoking sheds they’re transported to the milling factory where they are stone-ground to red powder.The result is smoked paprika, (or pimentón de la Vera) a spice with a distinctive, sweet, earthy and smoky aroma.
Unsmoked Spanish Paprika
There is also unsmoked, sun-dried paprika, known as Pimentón de La Murcia. It also has the grades, sweet (dulce), semisweet (agridulce), and hot (picante). It is produced in the La Murcia region, in eastern Spain.
Both types of paprika (smoked and unsmoked) have been been granted a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), to ensure a clearly-labeled, artisanal product of exceptional quality.
Use of smoked Spanish Paprika (Pimentón de la Vera)
- It’s essential for authentic Spanish cooking.
- It is used to give Spanish chorizo its characteristic smokiness and colour.
- It adds a key flavour to paellas, fabada and other Spanish dishes where it gives a deep, woody flavour and a deep red colour.
- It is also used in regular American cuisine as a seasoning for barbecue pork, in potato salads, and the best deviled eggs you ever tried.
- Used in barbecue sauces, marinades and spice rubs.
- The spicy-hot version adds a kick to beans and lentils, gratin dishes, seafood cocktail sauces.
- It also works well with Indian dishes, adding depth and complexity, particularly in lamb stew, rogan josh, lentil dishes, kofta curry, and chicken tikka kebabs.