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An introduction to Paprika
by Anai Rhoads
January 10, 2003

Paprika is part of the Capsicum annuum family. http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~gcaselton/chile/var-ann.html

Originally discovered in Mexico, paprika is commonly stored in the form of a fiery red powder that is made from the most aromatic red bell peppers.  Commercial bell peppers are typically brought into the United States from places such as Hungary and Spain, but can be found locally in California as well.

Contrary to popular belief, the redder the colour paprika appears - the milder it is. The yellow variety is very hot and flavourful. Definitely not for the timid and should be used with care with those who cannot handle its spicy nature.

There are several varieties of capsicum (chilli) pepper that produce sweet and mild to hot and spicy flavours.  Paprika is increasingly proving itself to be a tasty alternative to typical spices we use in our recipes.

Aside from paprika's many uses in recipes, it can also be found in the cosmetic aisle.  From blush to eye shadow, paprika has been making women look great for decades. [1]

Paprika has not only hued our cheeks, but has been been said to contribute to the brilliant colour displayed by flamingos.  Zoos add paprika to the food fed to the flamingos to keep their plumage rosy. [2]

The Hungarian born and raised Professor Szent Gyorgi [3] won the Nobel prize for discovering paprika's nutritional value.

Chilli is extraordinarily high in vitamin C which makes paprika not only tasty, but good for you.  It is said that paprika contains as much as nine times as much vitamin C as one tomato does in weight.  One would think the drying process would lessen the vitamin C potency, but instead it binds it further.  Naturally dried paprika is higher in vitamin C, so choose the organic, sun dried form versus the commercially processed ones.

Other benefits of paprika include increasing saliva production, normalising stomach acid to assist with digestion, it has been known to regulate blood pressure, improve circulation by providing a blood thinning agent and in some countries it is used as an antibiotic. [4]

Paprika loses its colour and flavour with time.  Be sure to store your (not glass- use a non-clear container) bottle in a cool, dark, dry place. Some would suggest the refrigerator to help it from ageing too quickly.  Replace the paprika from your pantry every six months to ensure that you have the most flavourful batch handy.

When you are prepared to use paprika, keep a few things in mind before you begin:

Paprika loses its colour when exposed to light for too long.

It is best to take the paprika out when you are ready.

Paprika also loses its colour (and flavour) during the cooking process. Add it as near to the end of baking as possible.

If you taste the paprika in its powder form, you will not notice a significant taste.  Most flavour is released during cooking.  Do not be fooled into using too much of the yellow paprika assuming that it is mild.  Once it is heated, it will become very spicy! Some sprinkle red paprika over already cooked food for sake of colour. This is a great idea, but it will not add much flavour that way.

Much like sugar, paprika can burn easily if not watched carefully. Paprika is high in sugar and once burned it will only create a very bitter taste.

There are more than just the red and yellow colours at the market. Check the labels carefully to ensure that you are about to purchase the flavour you most desire for your recipe: 

Semisweet: has a very light and almost matte colour. Fairly hot and spicy.

Sweet: a deep colour that is somewhat mild and coarse in texture.

Mild: has an airy red colour, fragrant and mildly hot.

Delicatess: a powdery red that releases a delicious aroma when heated.

Rose paprika: packed with flavour (slightly hot) and has a very lovely rosey colour.  Rose paprika is a Hungarian speciality.

Hot: from a sandy brown red to a sun-lit yellow you can expect a very hot flavour.

If you have never incorporated paprika within your recipes or haven't had the pleasure of tasting it and would like to give it a shot, try this simple recipe at home to get started:

Ingredients

4 large russet potatoes
1/4 cup of extra virgin oil (dark)
Salt and pepper to taste
Your preferred flavoured paprika from your local market

Cooking Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the potatoes thoroughly.  Feel free to keep the skin intact or peel partially/entirely.  Cut the potatoes to a desired size. The thinner you cut them, the crispier they will become during baking.

Add foil to a shallow metal baking pan. Coat it with olive oil to prevent sticking.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper (optional). Add the potatoes in a single file - do not overlap. Pour the remaining oil over the potatoes. Sprinkle a very light amount of paprika over the well oiled potatoes.

Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake the potatoes for roughly 30 minutes. Remove the sheet, flip the potatoes over and add an additional desired amount of paprika to preserve fresh flavour.

Heat for an additional 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Keep in mind the varying heating times are according to different ovens, so keep an eye on the potatoes every 10 minutes or so to prevent over baking.

Copyright 2003 Anai Rhoads. All rights reserved. 10/01/03

[1] http://www.bestcooksite.hypermart.net/herbs-n-spices.htm Herbs-n-Spices

[2] http://www.zoonews.ws/IZN/288/IZN-288.html International Zoo News Vol. 45/7 (No. 288) October - November 1998

[3] http://helios.physics.uoguelph.ca/summer/scor/articles/scor141.htm The Science Corner by Nigel Bunce and Jim Hunt College of Physical Science University of Guelph: 1987.

[4] http://www.tsn2000.com/vmh-p-r.htm  Listing of herbs and spices and their medical uses.


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