Tweens Masala

Paprika, Hungarian, Smoked (Bittersweet)




Bittersweet smoked paprika spice is a Hungarian variety. Think sweet, slightly bitter at the back, and with a bit of oak wood smoke. This will turn cream sauces a delightful ruby-pink hue and add a sensual sweetness as well as smoky flavor. Best for game meats, eggs, cream-based dishes, and desserts.

If there was any spice with a more complicated history or confusing categorization, it must be paprika. Paprika is made from the Capsicum annuum plant, which sounds simple enough. However, there are dozens of varieties of this pepper – both chile and bell. Yet, genetically, they’re all the same species. (Think of it in the way all people are human, but look very different from each other.)

Paprika is technically native to North and Central America and was used by the indigenous peoples as a food and as a coloring agent. Spanish explorers became enamored with the plant and brought it back to Spain along with tomatoes, potatoes, and other produce. The Spanish – particularly the lower classes, as the heat of paprika was considered undignified by the rich – began using the seeds in food preparation.

he seeds spread past Iberia to Turkey and throughout the Ottoman Empire, as well as throughout Europe to the Balkan countries and Russia. Later on it became endeared by India and the Middle East. And, of course, each country began breeding it to their tastes; the Spanish by smoking it, the Turks preferring hotter varieties, and the Hungarians loved it sweet and mild. Hungary and Spain, however, are the major producers of paprika, with the United States as a distant third.

Thus, we have endless varieties of paprika. Whew.


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