Ahh, paprika – the exotic flame of spices. Paprika is sold and used as a fine powder, ground from certain peppers. Spain and Hungary are probably the most well known European purveyors of paprika, with Spanish paprika generally known as a more milder version to Hungary’s richer and stronger paprika. However, Turkey and the US are also known for producing and selling paprika as well. I’ll bet when you buy the more common brands in the grocery store, like McCormick’s and what-not, if it isn’t specified as Turkish or Spanish or whatever, then it’s most likely manufactured here in the US.
There are many different varieties of paprika as well – from super-mild, to super-spicy, depending on the types of peppers it’s made from. I think Spain is best known for their smoked paprika – so named because the peppers are dried by smoking from oak wood. And color-wise, the more bright red versions of paprika are more mild. The more dull and brown the paprika, the sharper and hotter it will be.
I know that paprika is used a LOT in Hungarian and Spanish cooking. It’s used to flavor chorizo and other sausages as well. And here in the US, it’s used a lot as a garnish – every good Southerner knows you can’t have deviled eggs or a good potato salad without some paprika sprinkled on top! It is used to provide color and a little kick to a lot of things – from cheese spreads to salad dressings to meat rubs. I’ve also read where commercial food manufacturers use paprika to provide color – if something is red or reddish-brown and the ingredients reference “natural colors”, there’s a good chance it has paprika in it.
If you’re not using paprika a lot, you should be! Don’t just save it for your deviled eggs – play around with different meats and dressings. Whenever I use it, I tend to use a lot – it blends well with olive oil and provides great color to whatever you’re cooking. Anytime you make any kind of dip as an hors d’oeuvre, or a snack, you should always add paprika. It will also help turn a plain-jane meal into something with a little more kick without adding a lot of spicy hotness.
When it comes to paprika, don’t be scurred!