I always liked the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.
But, what if life gives you thousands of peppers?
As my readers know, I am an avid gardener, and each year I plant about 50 pepper plants. This year was especially good for shoshitos, bananas, jalapenos, serranos, poblanos and cayenne. The anaheims didn’t fair as well, and I never have much luck with sweet peppers. However, the plants that did produce went nuts. And as I write this (end of October 2019), we still haven’t had a killing freeze, so my plants are still producing.
I pickle them, stuff them, dry them, and grind them. My pickled Christmas peppers is the biggest winner. Everybody at work gets some, and they are universally loved.
But as the jalapenos and serranos were especially prolific, and I canned about 30 quarts of pickled peppers. My hands were getting tired of slicing them. My wife was getting tired of the house smelling like vinegar all the time. Trying to get my friends to return the mason jars was getting old. So I was frantically looking for something else to do with them. Well, a common spice in everyone’s spice rack is paprika, which is nothing more than dried peppers ground very finely. I have a dehydrator, and I have a coffee grinder, so I decided to try my hand at making paprika.
So what is the need for paprika you might ask? I don’t like food that is uniformly white. Things like mashed potatoes, potato salad, clam chowder, etc. all need to have some contrasting color to make them appealing to me. I usually just put a ton of black pepper on white things, but I also like the deep red of paprika. The stuff you get in the grocery store says it’s “fancy”. I’m not sure what makes it fancy. It looks like dark red powder to me, and it is mostly pretty tasteless. However, it does look good on white foods, especially potato salad.
A Brief History of Paprika
Paprika was unknown in Europe before Columbus, as all peppers are from the New World. But once they started shipping them back home and people got busy. Drying peppers is a very good way to preserve them, so the Spanish became adept at drying and grinding them into powder. The type of pepper used would determine the taste. Typically, sweet peppers are used, but sometimes hotter ones are mixed in to create a spicy blend. The Spaniards also smoked the peppers creating a smokey variety. So this new spice slowly spread all over Europe, and certain places like Hungary really took it to heart. Hungarians use paprika in everything, and the national dish, goulash, uses a ton of it.
What’s good enough for the Hungarians is good enough for me.
I figured (rightly) that the serranos would produce a pretty red paprika. So I cut them length-wise and put them into the dehydrator. When they were good and dry, I put them into my wife’s coffee grinder and created a fine powder. It has a very pleasant smell, and tastes great, but it was a bit too hot. I also dried and ground some small red sweet peppers that my wife had in the fridge. Combining these with the serrano powder allowed me to create paprika with variable amounts of heat. Personally, I like a 1:1 mixture of the serrano and the sweet. This is currently my favorite condiment and I put it on everything.
So if you find yourself with tons of peppers, give it a go. So I’m not sure this is a according-to-Hoyle paprika, but hey, it’s my website, and that’s what I’m calling it. If the Hungarians show up at my door some day, I guess I’ll deal with it then.