09 Jan Paprika, red gold
The chili pepper (Capsicum annuum) was one of the first products that Christopher Columbus presented to the Catholic Monarchs back from America in 1493. After all, he had tried to reach India via the West in search of spices, and in the new world that found in return, there was at least something whose spicy taste reminded of that of the appreciated oriental pepper. The first use of pepper was spice. In the sixteenth century, the Jerónimos already cultivated and developed the drying and grinding technique that gave rise to the paprika, and took the pepper to the monastery of San Pedro de la Ñora (Murcia), and then to other brotherhood headquarters in Andalusia or La Rioja.
The secret of the preparation were kept with zeal, but the paprika became a popular spice, among other things for being much cheaper than pepper, and despite being widely used, it is not considered in written recipes until the 18th century. By then, marinades, sausages, casseroles and stews already sported the red color of the seasoning.
The doctor Francisco Abad Alegría pointed out that the reddish color of paprika (and the golden saffron) served as a link between the different Hispanic foods, all with great personality. Well, in case of paprika, the color is due to the carotenoids from the pepper, substances that are soluble in oil. Hence, paprika stains more intensely prepared with some fat than aqueous liquids. Another curiosity is that sweet varieties tend to have more intense colors than spicy ones.