The paprika or paprika is a spice that is obtained from the fruit of plants of the species Capsicum annuum L., which is the species to which they belong chilies and peppers originating in tropical America.
The nutritional properties of this food are surprising and unfortunately little known. The benefits that paprika has on health are mainly linked to the important content of antioxidant compounds that help defend the body from the action of free radicals . Paprika, even more than raw pepper for the same weight, contains a concentrate of vitamins, starting from all those of group B, up to Vitamin C and provitamin A or beta carotene.
The chemical composition, resulting from the paprika powdered processing process , shows a concentration of many of the basic product’s own substances, due to the considerable loss of water, without causing an excessive alteration or loss of its main nutritional principles.
In the kitchen, this spice has a characteristic and particular taste that varies according to its type and grind . Furthermore, its characteristics make it excellent for flavoring many dishes , especially the second courses with red or white meat, including fish.
Paprika: what it is
The paprika was born as spicy spice and, subsequently, both with the application of the fruit processing methods, both with the introduction of sweet varieties, has gradually lost its exclusive spicy connotation and is characterized and also established for its sweetness.
The motherhood of this spice is attributed to Hungary. In fact, in the Magyar language, the word ” paprika” really means ” pepper “.
It is obtained from two varieties of peppers:
- elongated shape: Capsicum annuum var. longum
- large cherry form: Capsicum annuum var. longum grossum.
The collection of peppers destined for the production of paprika is carried out from the end of August until mid-September with manual harvesting. The fruits must have a uniform and complete maturity, only in this way the typical bright red pigmentation is formed on the surface. They are placed in crates and sent for processing.
Difference between paprika and chili pepper
The difference between paprika and chilli is not given by the species, which is common. It consists in the vocation of the territory and the production tradition of the varieties of peppers used, in the particular processing of the ground product and in the degree of spiciness.
For example, in the Scoville scale , the spiciness of paprika does not exceed the second range between 100 and 1000 mg / kg of capsaicin.
The reference manual for the classification of paprika indicates the following reference categories of presentation and spiciness.
- Exquisite : homogeneous grinding and appearance with acceptable grain size, bright red color, typical flavors of spiced and sweet paprika.
- Delicat a: homogeneous grinding and appearance with acceptable grain size, red or yellow red color with yellow brown hue, typical paprika flavor.
- Noble-sweet : homogeneous grinding with just mosaic aspect and acceptable dimensions of grain, red, lighter red, yellow red with yellow brown tones, typical paprika flavor.
- Rózsa : homogeneous grinding with a barely mosaic appearance, acceptable grain size, faded red color with shades of yellow brown, typical paprika flavor, slightly spicy.
Content groups of Capsicum
- It does not exceed 100 mg / kg: it is called Csípősségmentes (not spicy)
- between 100 and 200 mg / kg: it is called Enyhén csípős or édesnemes (just spicy)
- over 200 mg / kg: it is called Csípős (spicy).
The most popular version of paprika is édesnemes , which can be found in numerous stores even outside of Hungary. It is a very balanced paprika, ideal for most recipes, because it has a delicate spiciness, barely noticeable.
In addition, sweet paprika also has a smoked variant , which is particularly popular in the Spanish regions.
In Hungary, the cultivation of bell pepper was probably introduced in 1600 by Mária Széchy, wife of Count Ferenc Wesselényi. The first specimens were grown in the garden of the Franciscan monastery of Szeged (Szeged) which has since become a traditional reference production center. Furthermore, it seems that its use was “imported” during the long period of Ottoman domination.
The legend of paprika
We find the historical link between Hungary and Turkey in the legend that tells the birth of paprika. In fact, a Hungarian peasant , during her forced period of stay in the harem of a Turkish pasha in Buda, had the merit of understanding the secret of the cultivation of peppers by spying in the gardens of the nobleman’s palace. After she was released, the young woman returned to her country and disseminated the knowledge acquired on the cultivation of peppers and their use as a condiment.
In 1879, Georges Auguste Escoffier, a well-known French chef, introduced the Hungarian paprika powder to the Grand hotel in Monte Carlo, buying it directly in Szeged. So it was that paprika gained notoriety as “Hungarian spice”.
Subsequently, the non-spicy variety of paprika was introduced by Ferenc Horvath of Kalocsa. In 1890 extensive cultivations began to develop in the Szentes area.
Variety of sweet paprika
In the 1930s, Kalman Erno Obermayer chemical engineer and farmer, obtained excellent results recognized internationally in the variety selection of Hungarian peppers, producing varieties of sweet paprika with a high color content and spicy varieties in Szeged.
The innovation allowed the pepper powder, i.e. the ground paprika of Kalocsa and Szeged to be known all over the world, together with the most characteristic dishes of the Hungarian tradition in which it is used . First of all the Goulash (national dish) or as an ingredient in typical local products, such as the salami from the Pick Salami Factory born in 1869 from the Mark Pick shop.
Finally, Albert Szent-Györgyi de Nagyrápoltm, Nobel Prize in Medicine 1937, discovered in peppers (and paprika) a source of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), the compound that prevents death from scurvy.
Paprika: nutritional values
It is a mine of mineral salts, with very high levels of iron, potassium and phosphorus.
The typical red color of paprika represents a relevant source of carotenoids and polyphenols . All these compounds are antioxidants, which together with the other typical compounds of the species, such as, for example, capsanthin , lycopene and polyphenols, play a valuable protective action.
So, all this richness, combined with a good amount of fiber , makes paprika a very interesting nutritional spice, although it is a product whose consumption is limited to a few tens of grams.
Paprika: health benefits
The beneficial effects of paprika are basically those already described for bell pepper, which is the basic product.
Find out all about bell pepper to know all the benefits of paprika .
This spice effectively performs many functions and among the main ones are:
- anti-inflammatory , with positive effects especially on the respiratory tract
- immune system enhancer
- protection of the cardio-circulatory system
- visual ability help
- maintaining the efficiency of the nervous system and the brain
However, the foresight that should be observed in its consumption is to prevent cooking from altering the composition of its precious antioxidant compounds, consequently reducing their beneficial effects.
Above all, the high amount of vitamin C , which is a thermolabile molecule, risks being greatly reduced with prolonged cooking or at high temperatures.
Contraindications and side effects
As for the pepper, also for paprika, the recommendations of a particular care in the consumption by those who are sensitive to the vegetables belonging to the family of the “Solanaceae” (tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines and peppers) are valid.
In fact, paprika can create some digestive difficulties if the starting picture is complicated by gastric problems. In addition, the abundance of capsaicin in spicy paprika can cause irritation to the gastrointestinal mucous membranes and discomfort in the case of ulcers and hemorrhoids.
How paprika is made
After the harvest, a post-maturation period of 10-40 days follows. In fact, the pods are kept in nets, crates or hung with twine.
In the past, peppers were hung in rain-proof and sun-exposed places.
This phase is very important , because it can cause an increase in the dry matter content and especially in the paprika pigment (even by 30/50% more). Therefore, the operation must observe adequate hygienic conditions and the use of healthy materials to prevent deterioration or infection.
Raw peppers are washed thoroughly with jets of water. Then they are cut into pieces of 12-15 mm, to facilitate better drying. It is essential that the stems are solid after cutting, so that they can be removed and prevent quality degradation.
In this phase, the water content must be reduced to 6-8%. The pepper is subjected to hot air jets to obtain a semi-finished product with a stable pigmentation. The drying process is very delicate.
In fact, care must be taken not to deteriorate the carotenoids responsible for staining, which are sensitive to heat and avoid that they can decrease in this phase. Therefore, warm air must cause a bitter taste with sugar caramelization and a brown color.
After drying, the peppers are cooled and divided into small pieces (2-3 cm) so that they can be packed in bags to store them in a cool, dark and dry place.
If peppers contain beta carotene, most must be safeguarded. In fact, the peppers thus divided take up less space and maintain the abrupt and divisible state.
The cold temperature (2-5 ° C) prevents the color from fading.
Calculation of the degree of spiciness
Depending on the destination, the ” millmaster ” or the one who takes care of obtaining the right degree of spiciness, calculates the relationships between the types of peppers.
In the sale of the final product, the two components of spiciness and coloring play a fundamental role in relation to the contents of capsaicin and pigments.
Paprika, the spicier it is, the more its color turns to bright yellow-orange, because the higher the capsaicin content.
In fact, capsaicin has an antioxidant effect, therefore it prevents the oxidation of the yellow fraction with red pigment. Instead, the sweet and delicate one has a dark red pigment.
At the beginning the peppers are ground with a hammer mill. This is appropriate for a first fractionation, but the heat that gradually develops is dangerous for the pigment, therefore it is further ground in an electric line of mills with stone wheels. The last stone is the rougher stone.
Milling with stone is an old technology from Szeged and Kalocsa. It has been performed for over 100 years.
The stone wheels rotate slowly so that the crushed powder of the peppers does not heat up and does not risk losing the original color. In stone grinding, the last phase is called “reddening”, during which the oil content of the pepper seed is freed due to rubbing, dissolving the coloring content of the skin and uniformly coloring all the grains.
The fraction of the finished products is less than 0.5 mm but 75-85% of the total is between 0.3-0.4 mm. The smaller the fraction, the higher the oxidation rate. Since oxidation causes discolouration, the danger of the product losing its color is high.
Paprika: buying guide
Many buy paprika in relation to spiciness only.
For example, Rózsa paprika can contain 800 mg / kg of capsaicin which makes it quite “hot”.
But most consumers would like to buy paprika with a high pigment content because of its food coloring ability and exquisite flavor .
Conservation of paprika
It should not be kept too long.
Even in ideal storage conditions, after six to eight months , it loses its aromatic notes and cannot express the same flavor as when it is fresh.
For this reason, the mandatory recommendations before purchasing the product are:
- ensure the freshness of the product and its good conservation
- always stock up on paprika in the quantities that are supposed to be used in the short or medium term, in order to keep it for a limited time and always have new ones.
How to use paprika
The advice is not to insert the paprika directly into the sauteed or hot pan, so it would burn and you would not appreciate its fundamental aromatic component.
So, better first dilute the paprika in hot water or even in broth or in another seasoning as long as it is not too hot, mix it and only add it when cooking the dish being prepared.
In this way the paprika releases its aroma while maintaining the characteristics of both taste and color.
Paprika: use in the kitchen
This spice is excellent for flavoring vegetables, soups, soups and velvety . In general, it is ideal for enriching dishes with a delicate flavor such as potatoes, pumpkins, cheeses and even baked goods with its particular aroma, varying the more or less spicy type according to personal taste .
For example, potatoes with paprika are a real Hungarian specialty extremely easy to prepare. The recipe only includes potatoes, sausages and some spices, including plenty of paprika . Despite the cheap ingredients, the end result is extremely delicate , so it is an all-time favorite of many Hungarian families.
Recipes with paprika
1 – Tomato cream
Total calories 500 / calories per person 125
Ingredients for 4 people
- 25 g butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- minced garlic clove
- paprika to taste
- 900 g ripe tomatoes cut into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 350 ml water
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 25 ml partially skimmed milk
- 1 teaspoon fresh cream
- Salt to taste
- pepper as needed
- 150 g low-fat natural yogurt
- 3 tablespoons chopped basil.
Melt the butter and gently brown the onion and garlic in a covered pan, being careful not to brown them.
Add the tomatoes and a pinch of paprika and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat and covered in a pan. Add the lemon juice, water and brown sugar and cook for another 5 minutes, always covered and on medium heat.
Leave to cool a little and then blend. Filter the cream with a strainer to remove the skins and seeds and put it in a clean bowl, add the cream, milk, season with salt and pepper and mix.
Divide the cream into small bowls and serve garnished with a spiral of yogurt and chopped basil leaves.
2 – Vegetarian Chili
- 400 g of beans
- 200 g of quinoa
- 200 g tomato sauce
- 1 celery the coast
- 1 carrot
- 1/2 onion
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- pepper as needed
- parsley to taste
- sweet paprika to taste
- chilli pepper to taste
Prepare the quinoa: wash it thoroughly under cold water with the help of a narrow mesh strainer, so as to eliminate the saponin, the substance that covers it and that gives it a bitter taste. Cook it following the instructions on the package. Once cooked, shell it with a fork.
Cut the onion into slices and into small cubes both the celery stick and the previously peeled carrot.
Leave the vegetables to fry in the oil, for a few minutes, on a low heat, until they have softened.
When the vegetables are soft, the tomato puree and half a glass of water are unique. Then add the salt, paprika and hot pepper.
Leave to cook for 5-10 minutes and add the beans and quinoa. Add salt and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
Serve with another sprinkling of sweet paprika.
3 – Fantasy of chickpeas and broccoli
Total calories 590 / calories per person 295
Ingredients for 2 people
- 400 g chickpeas already boiled
- 400 g broccoli
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- garlic 1 clove
- vegetable broth to taste
- paprika to taste
- fresh chopped parsley to taste
- Salt to taste
In a pan, brown a clove of garlic with a tablespoon of oil, then add the washed and chopped broccoli and cook for about ten minutes, adding hot vegetable broth if necessary.
Add the boiled chickpeas (you can also use the pre-cooked ones in the jars), mix well and cook for another 15 minutes.
Add salt and sprinkle with paprika and chopped fresh parsley.
The dictionary definition of paprika at Wiktionary