Used as a seasoning and garnish for a plethora of savory dishes, paprika is a powder made by grinding aromatic sweet red pepper pods. The pods are quite tough, so several grindings are necessary to produce the proper texture. The flavor of paprika can range from mild to pungent and hot; the color, from bright orange-red to deep blood-red. Most commercial paprika comes from Spain, South America, California and Hungary, with the Hungarian variety considered by many to be superior. Indeed, Hungarian cuisine has long used paprika as a mainstay flavoring rather than simply as a garnish. Pimenton is a special Spanish paprika made from peppers that have been slowly smoked and dried over oak fires. The process gives the peppers a rich, smoky quality. There are three versions of pimentonsweet and mild (dulce), bittersweet medium-hot (agridulce) and hot (picante). Pimentón de Murcia and Pimentón de la Vera have both been awarded protected designation of origin status by the European Union. This coveted standing means products labeled as such must be produced using traditional techniques and only in specific areas of Spain. All supermarkets carry mild paprikas, whereas ethnic markets must be searched out for the more pungent varieties; gourmet markets carry exotic styles such as pimenton. As with all herbs and spices, paprika should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than six months.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.