Spanish cuisine, wrapped in the aromas of Saffron, garlic, sizzling lamb, and bubbling tomatoes, but sneaking into every other Spanish recipe is the dark red Vera Paprika, Pimentón de la Vera.
Where would chorizo be without its pimentón? Or the Cocido madrileño, Patatas Bravas or Atún encebollado. It is hard to find a home in Spain without the classic metal tin of Pimentón de la Vera in its pantry.
What is pimentón de la Vera?
This pimentón is smoked paprika produced under the Protected Designation of Origin, La Vera.
La Vera P.D.O. council certifies not only the origin of the product but also its quality and specifications. It controls the growing, harvesting, and processing of the peppers to guarantee a final product that gained its spot among renowned international spices.
Where is Pimentón de la Vera cultivated?
Just across the border of Portugal in cáceres, Extremadura. Although its production started in La Vera, nowadays it includes multiple regions in the area such as, Campo Arañuelo, Ambroz valley, Arrago, and Alagón plains.
Pimentón de la Vera, sweet, mild, and spicy
Spanish cuisine is not known for being excessively Picante. This is why you can usually find Pimentón de la Vera in three versions:
- Spicy: “Picante”. Which has a pronounced hot taste and is made with the varieties: Jeromín, Jariza, and Jaranda.
- Mildo or bittersweet: “Agridulce”. Which is mildly spicy, and is prepared with Jaranda and Jariza varieties
- Sweet: “Dulce”. Which has a mild totally sweet flavor and is made from Bola and Jaranda varieties of peppers
History of pimentón de la Vera
Capsicum annum has been grown since ancient times by the American Indians. It only tingled the Spanish palate when brought to the country by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century as a possible substitute for the ground pepper imported from the East.
The first evidence of pepper cultivation in the province of Cáceres is dated back to the end of the 15th century. It was initiated by the Jerónimos friars of the Monastery of Guadalupe then slowly spread through other monasteries until it reached the Yuste Monastery in La Vera where the peppers were used to manufacture pimentón.
By the middle of the 18th century, pepper crops were established in the natural region of Vera substituting the then-popular flax fields irrigated by the Tiétar river waters, flowing from Sierra de Gredos.
How is Pimentón de la Vera produced?
The pepper seeds are planted in February under the protection of greenhouses. In May, the seedlings are transplanted into the fields. Then cared for until the harvest season in Autumn.
In the north of Cáceres where this pimentón is elaborated, rain knocks on the door at harvest time, making it impossible to naturally sundry the fruits such as the pimentón prepared in the Murcia region. This forced the development of an alternative process of drying by smoking the peppers in large rooms constructed in the fields using oak or holm-oak firewood. This process takes from 10 to 15 days and gives Pimentón de La Vera its distinctive aroma, flavor, and color stability.
After smoking the peppers, they are stored in dry containers protected from humidity until they are packaged in the famous Pimentón de la Vera Tins.
What to look for in Vera region.
By the end of autumn, The “sensaciones del Pimentón de la Vera” festival is celebrated. It extends through November and December. This a great opportunity to explore the region, and visit Pimentón de la Vera factories, and exhibitions, while joining a Tapas route guided by the Pimentón de la Vera bouquet.
So mark the date on your agenda and do not hesitate to visit the land of a spice that conquered all Spanish regions.
How to use pimentón de la Vera in your cooking
Each recipe will require incorporating the paprika de la Vera at a specific stage of the preparation, but generally speaking, it is usually added after sautéing onions and garlic or other vegetables. In this case, it is required to hydrate the mix immediately to prevent the paprika from burning with broth or tomato. Sometimes it is added directly to the stews at the final stage of preparation.
You can always try to add a Spanish touch to other dishes like pasta, stir-fries, roasts, dips, sauces, and any other recipes, by incorporating Pimiento de la Vera into the ingredients. One of my favorites is adding Pimentón de la Vera to our hummus.