Another spice that is more familiar with cooking and food enthusiasts is Paprika. Paprika is an herb known basically for its coloring and spicy characteristics that help enhance food preparations such as salads and chicken dishes. Unknown to many, this special herb can do much more than just coloring and food flavoring. Paprika is a red powder that is made from grinding the dried pods of mild varieties of the pepper plants. These plants are used to make this spice range from the sweet pepper to milder chili peppers.
Paprika peppers are more familiarly known as containing hot and spicy characteristics when used for food additives. However, as time evolved, these herbs were developed into much more broader benefits, catering to other genres of individual tastes such as sweetened and hotter varieties. They also range in size and shape depending on their place of origin and how they are carefully cultivated. The most commonly produced paprika is made from the sweet red pepper also called the tomato pepper, something that is more familiarly known to be added in such dishes that include spaghetti and casseroles.
The powdered paprika herbs are converted into powder form, which range from bright red powder to brownish powder forms. The flavors vary in taste, from sweet to mild and even towards more spicy and hotter variants altogether. To date, sweet paprika is the most sought after variant. Normally these would be immediately available in local supermarkets but given that most people have increased the demand for the need of this herb to be present in their special dishes, they can also be found in specialty food stores as alternative places of purchase.
History of Paprika
Paprika herbs are usually associated with Hungary, the place where most of this spicy plant originated. Believed to have been introduced to the country in the 17th century, most people believe that various groups fled to the northern parts and introduced the said peppers to Balkans in the early years. Paprika became commonly used in Hungary by the end of the 18th century. Many towns in the country region found themselves competing against each other to claim the title of Paprika capital of Hungary. Among the leading competitors in the old days were Szeged and Kalosca. Both fought for distinction and bragging rights on being the best distributor and source for the said herb.
Harvesting and Propagation of Paprika
There are quite a number of people who grow and cultivate the said herb and process them properly to produce the necessary spices that is being sought after by most people when it comes towards food enhancement. Some of the recommended breeds to grow are Kolosca and Hungarian peppers. Kolosca is known to be a sweet pepper with ideal aroma. The color is orange-red when ground. Hungarian peppers are mildly sweet with medium red color distinctions. For effective harvesting of these crops, these peppers need warm weather to grow. The curing time to sow the seeds is actually 6-8 weeks before transplanting in a high quality mix in a shallow starting tray, about 3 seeds to the inch. The potting soil temperature must be approximately kept above 80°F if possible to encourage germination. It is recommended to use heating cables or set pots on water heaters. The blooms and seedlings are expected to emerge within 7 to 15 days after. Keeping the pepper plants with the proper moisture is recommended to ensure proper and quality harvests.
After germination, plants should be moved to rays of bright sunlight with proper moistened soil. In cooler climate countries, plant peppers should be carefully placed through black plastic and use row covers, and the soil be kept evenly moist. The use of liquid fertilizer every two weeks is recommended as well. Peppers should be waited upon to turn red before drying and grinding them. Clipping them off the plant and hanging them in direct sunlight should help complete the entire process of cultivation and harvest. Some use dehydrators as well to aid in producing quality produced paprika plants. Paprika are considered semi-perishable products and treated as such. It should be stored in a cool dry place.
Paprika deteriorates quickly so it should be purchased in small quantities and kept in airtight containers away from sunlight. For people who do not have the time to produce such, there is always the market as earlier stated to resort to, although the quality of the plant that they may be purchasing may not be as they are expecting.
Food Aids and Enhancers
Without a doubt, paprika is strongly connected with Hungarian cuisine. Paprika is used in dishes such as chicken papirkash and goulash. It is used in many spiced meat products like Spanish chorizos as well. Many Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish recipes use paprika for soups, stews and casseroles.
In India paprika is sometimes used in tandoori chicken to give it the reddish color that is known for. Paprika is often used as a garnish for salad, appetizers and eggs.
In Spain paprika is used to flavor shell fish dishes, rice, and season tomato and green pepper salads.
Paprika releases its color and flavor upon exposure to direct heat. This is the reason why the food coloring and presentation undertakes a significant facelift, which cheats the naked eye but not the human taste buds. Hence, this is the reason why it has been tagged as being a garnish, and again, not a flavor enhancer. In some instances, it can be used as a flavoring as well through stirring the powder into some oil before adding it to a recipe. Paprika can be brushed on meats, poultry, or fish as well. Its important to remember when using paprika in sauces that it has a high sugar content and burns easily. The extracted form of paprika is oleoresin prepared from dried, seeds and ground pods. This product is used in certain products that include sausage, cheese, soup, and food where characteristic of paprika flavoring and coloring are desired and needed.
Paprika totally alters the manner to which most people approach their cooking expertise. Paprika can be used to add spice and presentation in pasta sauce, sprinkled on potatoes or even potato fries. Some even use it on poultry, meat, and fish dishes when cooking. Use paprika as a milder seasoning in chili or stews. It can even liven up some soups with color and flavor.