Hungarian Paprika v Spanish Pimenton

Today's question for the chef: Is there a difference between Hungarian paprika and Spanish paprika?

The short answer is yes. And here are the delicious details:

Hungarian Paprika and Spanish Pimenton are spices made from Capsicum peppers. Capsicum peppers range in variety from sweet, like the American bell pepper, to hot chili peppers. The Capsicum pepper is a new world food, with origins in the Americas. Today, Capsicum peppers are grown in every region of the world.

Paprika, in Hungarian and other European languages, refers to the dried spice and the pepper its made from. The Spanish word for the spice is Pimenton. Until recently Hungarian paprika found in U.S. markets was limited to a sweet variety. Versions with heat are showing up on grocery store shelves with more frequency.

more on the sweet, smoky and hot paprika after the jump

Spanish Pimenton is made dulce-sweet, agridulce-bittersweet with medium heat or spiciness, and picante-hot. The intensity of the heat derives from the type of pepper(s) used to make the Pimenton. The difference between the two styles of the spice is how they are made.

Traditionally, to make Hungarian paprika, peppers are strung together and hung to air dry. After the peppers dry out, they are stemmed, seeded and ground. To create Pimenton in Spain, the peppers are dried slowly, a process that takes about two weeks, over slow burning oak. Rotated daily during the drying process, when done they are stemmed, seeded and stone ground. The Spanish drying process gives the Pimenton its distinctive smoky flavor.

Most of us associate Hungarian paprika as a simple means to add a dash of color to eggs, poultry, fish or meat. But it adds flavor as well. Mix the paprika with a little oil to act as an agent to transfer flavor, and help prevent the spice from burning during cooking. We recommend gently heating the spice in oil to release the flavor as you cook your dish.

Spanish recipes regularly call for Pimenton in paella, stews and sausage making. We like to add it to chili, slow braised meat and poultry, and as an ingredient for smoky rubs.

Remember as with all spices, store in a cool, dark cupboard or drawer and check your paprika for freshness before using.