WHAT IS IT?
The most pervasively popular paprika world-wide, it does beg the question:
What the heck is ‘paprika?’
The word itself is Hungarian, derived from either Greek ‘piperi’ or Latin, ‘piper.’
It refers to a type of bell pepper, which is used for the sweet, but can also include hotter peppers used for hot paprika, or smoked. Of the eight types of Hungarian pepper
Sweet Hungarian is a dusty red powder, with a silky texture. Hints of dried plums, raisin, and chocolate it’s almost overwhelming how many flavors are in this unassuming red powder.
There’s no pungency or heat here; only a dried fruit, red bell pepper flavor, and a sweet finish.
The Hungarian hot pepper used for paprika was first grown in 1569, by the Turks at Buda (Today’s Budapest, the capital of Hungary.)
A breeder, in Szeged, in the 1920’s, grafted a plant that produced a sweeter fruit to the hotter Turkish pepper. The Hungarians loved the sweeter, mild pepper,
Over time, that pepper has been exported all over the world. It has become the dominant paprika in Europe, and North America, as well.
- Goulash – A meat and vegetable soup rich in paprika;
- Garnish – Sprinkle on top of mashed potatoes, or on a steamed fish, for color;
- Paprikash – a meat stew; with dumplings;
- Ajvar – Eggplant appetizer made with fresh, or ground, paprika.
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Sprinkle as a finish for savory-sweet butternut squash ice cream;
- A creamy chicken empanada with hearts of palm, potatoes, and paprika;
- Hungarian goulash ramen with paprika eggs;
- Paprika-cheddar crackers beat Cheezit any day of the week!
Paprika seeds landed with Christopher Columbus as a gift to Isabella, and Ferdinand, the queen, and king, of Spain. It spread from the Iberian Peninsula to Europe, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. It spread to East Asia, and Asia Minor.
Regions transformed it to their tastes.
There are eight “grades” of Hungarian paprika.
- Különleges (“Special quality”) – It’s the most mild and it’s a very vibrant red;
- Csípősmentes csemege – Also a mild, delicate paprika;
- édesnemes (“Noble sweet”) It is very bright red, and slightly spicy. It’s the one that most people in North America know as Hungarian “sweet” pepper;
- Rózsa – Mild-to-medium. A pale red;
- Esemege paprika A low-medium spicy;
- Esípős csemege – Medium hot;
- Félédes – Sweet and medium hot;
- Erős (hottest and light brown to orange)
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