It’s something that many people have asked us at Basco. So, we thought we should investigate the phenomena of Spanish smoked paprika by interviewing Ricardo Rodriguez from Pimenton El Angel – the leading spicy, bittersweet and sweet smoked paprika producer from Extremadura, in the Caceres region of Spain. First though, a little history and context.
What is paprika made from?
Technically speaking, Spanish paprika is a ground spice made from the dried red fruits of the larger, sweeter varieties of the bell or sweet pepper (capsicum annuum). The most common variety used for making Spanish paprika is tomato pepper, sometimes with the addition of more pungent varieties, called chili peppers and cayenne pepper.
Where does paprika come from?
Paprika actually originated in central Mexico and was first brought to Spain in the 16th century and if you were wondering, ‘pimentón’ is how to say paprika in Spanish.
Is paprika spicy?
It can be. It’s available in three versions; mild ‘dulce’, mildly spicy ‘agridulce’ and spicy ‘picante’. The most common Spanish paprika denominations of origin include smoked Pimentón de la Vera and sun or kiln-dried Pimentón de Murcia. Pimenton El Angel has been sold for so many years, it’s almost become an institution in itself.
Now you’ve grasped the basics of Spanish paprika, it’s over to Pimenton El Angel’s Ricardo Rodriguez to reveal his lifelong passion this wonderfully sweet and smoky spice.
Tell us the history of the Pimenton El Angel?
Pimentón El Ángel is a family business founded in 1880. We are a company dedicated and specialising in the production of Spanish paprika, and are one of the largest producers in the area. Pimentón in Extremadura is an exclusive paprika from the region that is produced following the traditional way of drying the peppers under smoke with oak firewood. We are the fourth generation of the family, manufacturing, packing, commercialising and exporting pimentón from Extremadura. Our passion is to create the best quality Spanish smoked paprika for our customers.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
In 2005, we had a fire at our Spanish paprika factory and all our family, employees, customers and suppliers helped us to get back on our feet and move forward. It made us really stop, think and value what we had. Nowadays, the company is stronger with completely renovated facilities and a professional team that is making us even more successful than before the fire.
Your proudest moment?
For us, there is no better recognition than when we visit a small shop and find a small tin of our ‘pimentón’ Spanish paprika from Extremadura.
What’s the most rewarding part of producing Spanish paprika?
When we see the final result of our product. We manufacture one of the best paprika’s in the world, its colour and aroma are unique and of we love to taste as many of the incredible smoked paprika recipes out there as we can.
How does Pimenton El Angel make Spanish smoked paprika?
The production of our spicy, bittersweet and sweet smoked paprika begins with carefully picking each individual pepper by hand. We then take them to a traditional dryer where they are expertly smoked with oak wood. We check every batch, trace all stages of production and analyse all raw materials that we use. Later, the dried peppers are crushed and then milled in our factory’s traditional stone mills. The process is completed with the packaging of our Spanish paprika in tins, glass jar, bags, sacks for sale.
What’s the difference between our Spanish paprika and that of other paprika producing regions of Spain and countries?
The key difference is the way Pimentón El Ángel’s peppers are dried. We dry our peppers in the autumn using a traditional wood smoking process, whereas other producers leave theirs to dry in the sun.
What are the differences between the different types of Spanish paprika produced?
There is a big difference between paprika and sweet paprika and a lot of that depends upon the pepper itself. For example, one variety of pepper will produce a wonderfully aromatic sweet smoked paprika whilst another might create a bitter-sweet or spicy flavour.
What qualities you are looking for when picking peppers for your Spanish paprika?
The key factor when selecting peppers for our Spanish smoked paprika is actually the human factor, as all Pimentón El Ángel peppers are collected individually by the expert hands of artisan farmers. They select only the healthiest peppers that are free from impurities and foreign bodies which are then processed in traditional stone mills.
Is there a particular time of the year when the peppers are harvested?
Cultivation of the peppers for our Spanish smoked paprika starts in seedbeds from March, when the plants begin to germinate. Once they are a certain size, they are transplanted into the ground usually around May. In September, the peppers are plump, red, ripe and ready to be picked Once harvesting is over, farmers will dry the peppers until the end of September and the beginning of October. This is when the peppers will be in the best condition to produce the best quality Spanish smoked paprika.
What is Spanish paprika used for in cooking?
There are plenty of exciting paprika recipes and I have plenty of tips for anyone wanting to know how to use paprika in cooking. When making a sofrito (the base sauce), you must introduce the paprika last because otherwise it could become bitter. Another tip is don’t limit yourself in your use of Spanish paprika – experiment! It can be used to create a huge variety of simple culinary pleasures such as drizzling virgin olive oil and sprinkling paprika over a piece of toasted or dry bread rubbed with a cut clove of garlic. Spanish smoked paprika is fantastic with to boiled potatoes, goat's cheese or other melted cheeses, on vegetables mashed with a drizzle of olive oil. A light dusting also adds an extra dimension to cooked octopus and Spanish ham, in fact, with the majority of staple foods and of course, with paella.
When should Spanish paprika be added to a paella and what does it contribute to the dish?
The first thing to bear in mind is that if you want to use Spanish paprika in a paella, it should be bittersweet or sweet smoked paprika. Add it to the paella after creating the initial sofrito, just a few seconds after the broth is introduced and always to simmer. Oh, and don’t forget to add the all-important saffron, too.
Does Basco stock Pimentón El Ángel Spanish paprika?
Yes, in fact, it is the only Spanish paprika we at Basco stock because of all the paprika’s we have tasted, we agree it is the best. We offer both the sweet ‘dulce’ and spicy ‘picante’ varieties made from peppers grown and produced exclusively in Extremadura in either a small can and large bag. The El Angel Smoked Paprika Dulce 75g can has a distinctively authentic oak wood-smoked flavour whilst the El Angel Smoked Paprika Picante 75g can has the same smoky flavour stoked with the fire of chili. Larger 500g packs of El Angel Dulce and Picante offer even greater value and the ability to unleash to excitement of cooking with Spanish paprika whenever you wish.