International Specialty Foods, Ltd. carries a unmatched assortment of fine Spanish Paprika (Pimentón) products.
Paprika is made from ground, dried red peppers. So important is paprika to Spanish cooking and so demanding are the Spanish of quality paprikas that there are Denominations of Origin (D.O.) for paprika.
The most famous is La Vera, which is located in Cáceres, Extremadura, southwest of Madrid. This area is warm and dry in the summer, which make it perfect for growing peppers.
In La Vera, pepper seeds are planted in March and harvested from September to November. When ripe, families join together with others in the towns to manually harvest the small red peppers. First, the peppers are set out to dry in little drying houses.
Pimentón de la Vera has a distinctly smoky flavor that comes from the process of smoke-drying the peppers with huge amounts of oak wood in the drying houses. Peppers are placed on racks above the fire and farmers turn the peppers by hand once a day. This drying process takes about two weeks.
Next, the dried peppers are taken to small paprika mills, where the stalks and part of the cores are removed. Then, the peppers are ground in electric mills that have stone wheels. Heat from friction can be detrimental to the flavor and color of the paprika, so it is very important that the grinding process be done slowly. Once ground, the paprika is packed in cans and sold.
It is said that Christopher Columbus brought paprika back to Spain during his second voyage and served it to Ferdinand and Isabella in Extremadura and even though it was a bit hot and spicy for the king and queen, the monks of the monastery in Guadalupe passed it along to other brothers and it was spread from Extremadura all over Spain.
- Pimentón Dulce or Sweet Paprika – Round red peppers make this mild, light orange paprika.
- Pimentón Agridulce or Medium Hot Paprika – Longer, dark red pepper make a medium hot paprika.
- Pimentón Picante or Hot Paprika – Made from any of several different types of long red peppers.