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The spice sweet paprika is made by using one or more variations of dried capsicum, also known as bell peppers. It is used as an ingredient in cooking in a number of cultures throughout the world. In some languages, "paprika" means the pepper itself. There are many varieties of paprika, ranging from mild and sweet to smoky to hot and pungent. Sweet paprika is the most common form of the spice and is often just labeled paprika.
Sweet paprika is made by removing the seeds of specific types of red or orange bell peppers, then drying them under the sun, in ovens, or over fires before grinding them. The result is a bright red or orange powder used to spice or accent dishes. More pungent or hot paprika can be identified by its pale red or brown color.
Cuisines all over the world use sweet paprika to flavor soups, stews, and rice dishes. It is also used to make sausages and meats. Paprika is potentially high in vitamin C. Commercial processes, however, tend to leach the vitamins out of the peppers. Paprika made from sun dried peppers will have six to nine times the vitamin C as an equal amount of tomatoes.
Sweet paprika will vary slightly in flavor depending on the peppers used. Like grapes used to create wine, there are many cultivars of sweet peppers used to create sweet paprika, each grown in different climates and countries. The top producers of paprika are Hungary, South America, and Spain.
Hungarian paprika is the most popularly used paprika. It comes in a wide variety, but the sweet paprika versions are limited to the Noble Sweet or Édesnemes, Half Sweet or Félédes, and Különleges or Special Quality, which is the mildest and sweetest of the varieties. Noble Sweet is the most exported of the Hungarian paprikas.
Spanish paprika comes in three varieties. The mildest type, pimentón dulce, is considered to be sweet. Some Spanish paprikas have a distinctively smoky flavor due to the manner in which the peppers are dried. Paprika is also produced in the Netherlands, Turkey, Yugoslavia, and the United States.
The production of paprika was first recorded by the Turks in 1529. The peppers used for paprika, however, came through trade routes from the New World. Inhabitants of North and South America had long since been using crushed, dried peppers as an ingredient in both foods and medicines.