What is Pimenton de la Vera and how is this paprika made?
I am originally from Badajoz so I wanted to discover the incredible places and learn more about the tastes that Extremadura has to offer. We went to north of Caceres near Hervás and visited Hervás, Granadilla and the Ambroz valley. As we were in this region we had to learn more about Spanish paprika from one of the D.Os in Spain, D.O. Pimenton de la Vera.
In our case we visited an incredible factory called “Pimentón de Santo Domingo”. This company still does everything mechanical and completely natural, no additives or preservatives. They preselect the crops so they only grind the best peppers.
So after explaining a little bit about our trip to the region I will start explaining about Pimenton de la Vera and what makes it so special.
What is Pimenton de la Vera?
The “Pimenton de la Vera” is a product of smoky, intense and penetrating flavour and aroma, due to the drying process of the peppers by using smoke. The smoke has to come from the local oaks which gives an extraordinary taste to the paprika. As for its colour, it is intense red with relative brightness. It has a much stronger colour power from varieties of peppers from the Ocales group (Jaranda, Jariza and Jeromin) than in the Bola variety. Both its flavour, aroma and colour are highly stable over time, mainly due to the slow and gentle dehydration process used.
Types of Pimenton de la Vera
According to its flavour we can establish three groups of paprika:
-Sweet (Dulce) paprika: mild flavour, sweet. Made with the Bola and Jaranda pepper varieties.
-Bittersweet (Agridulce) paprika: gently spicy on the palate. Made with the Jaranda and Jariza pepper varieties.
-Spicy (Picante) paprika: pronounced itching / spiciness on the palate. Made with the varieties Jeromín, Jariza and Jaranda.
Where in Spain is Pimenton de la Vera made?
The region where all this process happens is in the North of Caceres, Extremadura between the mountain system of Bejar and Gredos. The area of production of peppers for the production of paprika protected by the Protected Designation of Origin “Pimentón de la Vera”, is within the municipalities of the natural regions of La Vera, Campo Arañuelo, Valle del Ambroz and Valle del Alagón.
Spanish Paprika throughout history
Europe did not have any peppers growing until after Cristobal Colón explored South America. They started bringing cacao, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and much more. They brought with them Capsicum annuum seeds back to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century which they started growing near Cuacos de Yuste and then exported to the rest of Europe.
The monks started growing it and made paprika in La Vera valley with all the different peppers types that we said above. However, there was another area in Spain that started producing a lot of paprika, Murcia in south-east Spain. In Murcia the weather is drier and hotter so they grow the Bola variety (ñora pepper). This type of pepper grows better in this climate and it is sun-dried instead of smoked. This is why the paprika from Murcia does not have that smokiness that the Pimenton de la Vera has.
Paprika in Spain has become one of the most grown spices, providing 50% of the paprika used in the USA.
Uses and benefits from using Spanish paprika
Spanish paprika has been used to add flavour to cured meats, like chorizo, or cheese, or for “conservas en manteca” (meat conserves in lard with paprika and other spices), which has been used as a breakfast or tapa so the meat would not turn bad. An example of these dishes are “lomo en manteca” in Cadiz, or “cachuela” in Extremadura, “manteca colorá”, chicharrones, and more.
How to make Pimenton de la Vera
The information below is how Santo Domingo paprika factory does it.
The first step is the preselection of the peppers. The D.O. Pimenton de la Vera forces the factories to select the best and throw those that are not fresh.
After the peppers arrive to the factory they go to the top floor which has holes and the fire burns downstairs. In this way the smoke of the oaks go to the top floor and dries the peppers slowly.
After they smoke the peppers they take them to a mechanical mill where they select how fine they grind them and for how long so the taste does not change.
Finally they have a master blender who tastes the paprika and blends the types of peppers together to make the final paprika, so as you can see it is very artisanal and not every year is the same.
Places to visit to learn more about the smoky Pimenton de la Vera
There are really two valleys and you can visit the valley of Ambroz near Hervás or the valley of la Vera. I recommend that you contact the factory in advance to visit. If they are grinding you won’t be able to visit the factory to prevent contamination.
There are incredible hikes and views from either and if you want to do some hikes nearby, please click here. In this link you will find the hikes I like most in Spain and if you go to the Extremadura section you will find the hikes I recommend in this area.
For Iberian ham tours you have Guijuelo if you go north towards Salamanca or Montánchez if you go south. Please click here to read more about Iberian ham and the different D.O.
Private full day tours through Cadiz province and Andalusia
If you are looking for culinary or hiking tours in Southern Spain, then keep reading. I will now take advantage to show you the great tours throughout Cadiz province and Andalusia that Explore la Tierra offers.
Culinary food tours
I do an Iberian ham tour from Seville and Cadiz. Enjoy a tour visiting the Mediterranean forest and the museum to learn the traditional methods for curing meat products, and then the current curing process of chorizos, loins and Iberian ham. At the end we will have an extensive tasting of a wide variety of cured meats. If you decide to do the full day tour we will head to the local caves which are outstanding and large with a total of 2130 subterranean meters divided in three levels. You will visit 2 levels in a circular route of around 1km.
In Cadiz province I also do sherry wine tours, bluefin tuna tours and visits to olive mills in the region. Please contact me and check my website if it is of your interest.
Guided hiking tours in Cadiz province
Cadiz province is one of the most biodiverse provinces in mainland Spain. Habitats range from dense forest reminiscent of cloud forest to Mediterranean forest, dune systems, and more. In fact, in Cadiz as mentioned above, you will find the largest cork oak forest in Spain. Moreover, the views of magical landscapes in Cadiz and the Strait of Gibraltar are breathtaking. Cadiz has over a third of its surface protected, while its climate and sunlight hours are similar to Canary Islands.
Coastal hiking tours in Cadiz
In my guided nature tours you will learn about the local history, traditions, and the many culinary, medicinal and traditional use of Mediterranean plants found within Cadiz province. You will find many of these plants in your supermarket in lotions, herbal teas and more
I will lead you in these hiking trails to get the most out of these hiking tours in Cadiz province. Furthermore, I will also explain the habitats that we find and some the landmarks of the hikes.
These hikes last from 3.5 – 7h depending on the guided hiking tours in Cadiz that you choose. Most of the hiking tours I offer consist of hikes that last 3.5 – 4.5h (8-13km). However, I can design longer or shorter hiking trails if you prefer a different one.
Hiking tour in Los Alcornocales natural park
Explore la Tierra does different hikes in Los Alcornocales natural park in Cadiz. However if you want a full day tour join this hiking tour in the heart of Los Alcornocales Natural park. In this guided nature tour in Los Alcornocales we will discover more about Cadiz, its nature, gastronomy and traditions. We will learn about the culinary, medicinal and traditional use of Mediterranean plants, found internationally, while taking in incredible views. In this hike you will also learn about the local fauna, and the local socioeconomical benefits. Finally, we will taste an extensive traditional food tasting such as: cheese, game meat, local wine, local rice, and more.