Pepper seeds are planted in March and harvested from September to November- i saw much in evidence on my recent trip.
When ripe, its said the family small-holders join together to manually harvest the small red peppers.
First, the peppers are set out to dry in little drying houses. Pimentón de la Vera has a distinctly smoky flavor that comes from the process of smoke-drying the peppers with huge amounts of oak wood in the drying houses. Peppers are placed on racks above the fire and farmers turn the peppers by hand once a day. This drying process takes about two weeks.
Next, the dried peppers are taken to small paprika mills, where the stalks and part of the cores are removed. Then, the peppers are ground in electric mills that have stone wheels. Heat from friction can be detrimental to the flavor and color of the paprika, so the grinding process has to be done slowly and ground seven times. Once ground, the paprika is packed in cans and sold.
In Murcia, the traditional method for drying the peppers is to lay them out in the sun. However, larger companies are now beginning to build rooms to hot air dry them. There are two key regions from Pimenton in Spain and both have Denominación de Origen DO - appelation; a label which signatures a superior quality. 70% of Spanish Pimenton is inscribed as Denominacion de Origin produce.
- de la Vera from Extremadura
- La Ñora from Murcia
And both areas produce three spice varieties: sweet and mild (dulce); bittersweet medium hot (agridulce) and hot (picante).
I hate to highlight brands but La Dahlia appeared to be favoured locally. The Hernandez family began the manufacture of Pimenton de la Vera at the turn of the century.
Pimenton is a delicate spice. One has to add pimenton "carefully" to recipes, it can burn and spoil the flavour. It is best to add at the end of the preparation-time if the smoky heat is to be retained, unless the dish is slow braised. If added to oil, remove the pan from the heat to avoid scorching the pimenton.
In addition every mercat has a wide range of pimenton, and the chili parent on display