Pepper Hunter explores the vibrant Kalocsa Paprika Pepper, known as "Red Gold" !
Growing tops are from me and other information is from awesome people growing paprika. In the future, I will reference sources.
The Kalosca comes from the marshlands of Kalosca south of Budapest on the left bank of the Danube River. Kalocsa and Szeged are in the southern part of Hungary are the heart of production in Hungary.
Last year was the first year that I grew the Kalosca Paprika Pepper. I have grand dreams for my over-wintered one plant, of an early harvest and abundant harvest!
The Kalosca is a mild pepper with fruity tones which can be blended with hotter peppers to add complexity and depth to your Hungarian and other dishes.
The plant grows 2-3 feet tall so provide it with ample space to stretch skywards. The Paprika Kalocsa is very close in appearance to the Szegedi 179 Paprika variety, but it is thicker, nearly 3/4 of an inch and can grow to over 4-6 inches in length. Typically it has a medium thin flesh.
The fruits mature from green to brown to red-violet in pendant style pods. Mine definitely had a distinct purple-violet hue with their red. The plant has green leaves. Kalosca is a Mid Season pepper coming in at 70-80 day maybe a tad longer in the Swan..
The heat level is considered medium compared to other chili peppers.
These regions have the highest amount of sunny hours a year, and the plants need lots of sunshine to get ripe and sweet.
Ripe peppers are harvested in September, yes even in the Swan Valley of Montana!
The pepper’s veins and seeds that contain the capsaicin responsible for the peppers pungency. In the mid 1800-ies the Pálfy brothers from Szeged invented an efficient way to remove the veins and seeds thus enabling mass-market production of sweet paprika that has always had a larger market than the hot types, but by all means if you prefer hot leave them in. Ferenc Horváth and Jenő Obermayer form Kalocsa developed the first non-pungent pepper variety in the world through cross-breeding. This pepper type is sweet and there’s no need to remove the veins and seeds.
Kalosca Paprika is an excellent drying pepper and is used in many Hungarian dishes. Paprika Kalocsa also be a seasoning, stuffed, roasted or used to make sauces.
Although many Hungarian dishes use paprika as an ingredient, this colorful, flavorful spice is actually a relative newcomer to Hungarian cuisine.
Pepper cultivation was established in Hungary during the Turkish occupation of that country in the 16th and 17th centuries. Shepherds and herdsmen who had more contact with the invaders started spice their meals with the fiery powder. But it wasn't until the late 18th century that paprika gained widespread acceptance as a spice in Hungarian foods. Formerly found only in peasant dishes, it gradually entered the culinary repertoire of the gentry and the nobility, dispersing throughout all levels of society so thoroughly that today it would be hard to imagine Hungarian cooking without paprika.
Many different kinds of peppers are cultivated in Hungary, including those grown specifically to be dried and ground into paprika. These include several kinds of long red peppers commonly used for making the milder paprikas, and small round red "cherry peppers" used for some of the hotter varieties of the spice.
After being picked, the peppers are left to rest for two to three weeks, to let their flavor and color develop even further. Then they're washed, dried, and ground into a powder.
Before the Industrial Revolution, farmers would string all their ripe peppers by hand, hang them up in a protected place to dry, and then complete the drying process in large earthenware ovens. The dried peppers were crushed underfoot, then ground into a fine powder by hand, using a huge mortar with a large pestle. Water mills, windmills and steam engines eventually replaced the hand method for grinding paprika. And today modern automatic machines wash, dry, crush, sort and grind the peppers all in one continuous process.
The Paprika Culture
For three to four weeks every autumn, more than 8,000 acres of fields around Kalocsa are filled with farm workers picking bright red peppers and stacking them in small wooden crates or big plastic mesh bags.
Residents of Kalosca string shiny red peppers to hang from balconies, porches, and eaves, like colorful ribbons on a peasant girl's costume. And on some of the houses, long cylindrical mesh bags full of peppers are suspended from the eaves like giant sausages.
During September the entire town, its population swelled by busloads of tourists, celebrates the pepper harvest with a paprika festival called "Kalocsa Paprika Days," featuring exhibitions of food products, a variety of sports competitions and a cooking contest (with paprika as an ingredient, of course). The highlight of the festival is the Paprika Harvest Parade, complete with local bands and colorful folk-dancing groups, followed that evening by a Paprika Harvest Ball.
Regardless of the time of year, however, the visitor is never far removed from paprika in Kalocsa. In addition to its pepper fields and commercial paprika factories, Kalocsa has a Paprika Street and a Paprika Museum. Strings of dried peppers festoon store windows and roadside stands. Souvenir shops are filled with folk-art gifts adorned with images of bright red peppers, including hand-painted eggs, decorated dishware and embroidered linens. And walls of houses and restaurants are painted with murals depicting traditional floral motifs, often with red peppers incorporated into the design. A sleepy little town that was once just an agricultural center has become a tourist mecca, especially at harvest time, attracting travelers from all over Europe and beyond.
Cooking with Paprika
As the spice that defines many Hungarian dishes, paprika is often in combination with other traditional Hungarian ingredients such as lard, onions and sour cream. Hungarian cooks always have several kinds of paprika in their kitchens, in a whole range of hues and flavors.
Just remember that when cooking with paprika, you should always stir the spice into HOT fat, to dissolve the powder and release its full flavor and aroma. Then quickly stir in the meat or a liquid to lower the temperature, to keep the paprika from burning, or it will turn bitter and ruin the dish.
Once you've tasted true Hungarian paprika—and mastered the simple technique of cooking with it—you'll never again think of paprika as just a pretty spice, good only for garnishing potato salad and devilled eggs.
As the Hungarians say, "Jó étvágyat kívánunk!" ("Enjoy your meal!")