The paprika de la Vera has the honor of placing this region on the world gastronomic map.
There are a great variety of ground peppers, but that of La Vera de Gredos is the only smoked ground pepper in the world. This peculiarity in its production process is what gives it such a genuine and much-appreciated aroma and flavor, and helped it to obtain the “Denomination of Origin” quality seal in 1991.
The center for growing this domesticated fruit of the Solanaceae family is the area around Jaraiz de la Vera, although it is grown and produced throughout the region. The main and traditional companies of the sector reside here, such as Dalia, a family business founded in 1913. Upon entering its factory we find a black and white photo of its founder, Valeriano, in a striped suit and tie, on his 400 hectare property fully dedicated to growing red pepper.
A large part of the pepper fields extend to the Tiétar river, towards the southern edge of La Vera de Gredos. The fruits grow well in its fertile and well-watered, slightly sandy soil, with a microclimate with mild winters and summers where oak forests are found next to olive groves and a variety of fruit trees. In total there are 1,300 hectares dedicated to growing the plant that has pimentón or smoked paprika as its end product. The harvest takes place between September and October, usually after the first abundant autumn rains. And this is the reason why the La Vera paprika is unique: you have to dry it well. Thus, for centuries until today, the fruits are taken to the drying barns, where they are placed on a grid, under which oak and holm oak firewood is burned. The smoke passes through the gaps left by the tiles. For 10 to 15 days, the piles of peppers are manually turned over with a wooden fork to ensure the even exposure to the smoke, which will give it that unique flavor. This is a titanic job, working amid dense smoke and temperatures of 45-50°C.
After the drying and smoking processes, the peduncle and the seeds of the pepper are removed before being sifted on the sieve and passed through the mills. It is crushed three or four times, the time it takes to break down all the molecules and remove the fat. The final stage of the process before canning is stone grinding, thanks to which the powder will maintain an appreciated orange-red color until consumption.
Today paprika is industrially ground. However, in Madrigal de la Vera, in the eastern part of the region, it is still ground in the traditional way, with the last operating water mill. Located next to the church, the “El Molino de Gredos” factory preserves two sets of granite stones measuring a meter and a half in diameter and 40 centimeters thick, dating from the 19th century.
In Jaraíz, at the Museo del Pimentón or Paprika Museum we can see why these seeds originating in Bolivia and Peru have flourished here. In 1493, at the end of his third trip, Christopher Columbus tried in vain to convince Queen Isabella the Catholic of the interest of this red fruit. But the Jerónimos monks from the Yuste monastery were the first to cultivate it in these lands and to realize that apart from its medicinal properties, it could be used to flavor sausages. Since the seventeenth century, this is its main use.
Sweet, spicy, bittersweet, the traditional food of La Vera de Gredos is impregnated with this intoxicating flavor of paprika and there is no restaurant in the region that does not incorporate it into its dishes: stew, migas (dish made with bread crumbs), minced meat, and of course, the “patatas revolconas” or “tumbled potatoes” .
Museo del pimentón
Jaraiz de la Vera
Tel: 927 46 08 10