Have you heard of Erős Pista and Édes Anna? They are not living celebrities, but they are the brand names of the most popular Hungarian red pepper paste. Erős Pista (translates as ‘Strong Steve’) is a hot pepper paste, Édes Anna (translates as ‘Sweet Anne’) indicates the sweet version of paprikakrém. Red pepper paste is omnipresent in lunch canteens, Hungarian restaurants and in home kitchens, many people stir it into fish soup, gulyás, meat stews and lecsó, or spread some on roasted pork or chicken cutlest.
Store-bought paprikakrém tastes fine, but homemade pepper paste has no equal. Making Hungarian red pepper paste is a good way to process a large number of peppers. It’s an easy recipe and you can use this pepper paste in so many different dishes. Paprikakrém is raw, the key ingredient is salt that preserves it for months. I add citric acid too, which saves the pepper’s beautiful vibrant red colour.
Hungarian red pepper paste is usually made from pritamin paprika and/or kápia paprika. Pritamin paprika peppers are one of the highest vitamine C peppers with a pleasant sweetness and with a thick, succulent flash. Due to its high sugar content and specific flavor, it is very popular in Hungary to eat fresh. Kápia paprika is a native of Eastern Europe, a tapered pepper with a brilliant red colour and distinctive sweetness.
You can make this red pepper paste with many different kinds of peppers. It can be bell peppers or any kind you can get. Feel free to add some heat by using a combination of hot and mild peppers or just use mild or just use hot. You can mix it up however you want.
- 2 kg red peppers (100% sweet, or 60-70% sweet and 30-40% hot red peppers)
- 150-200 g salt per kilo of ground peppers
- 1/2 tsp citric acid
Wash the red peppers, remove stem and seeds and cut in half or quarters depending on their size. If a few seeds remain in the peppers, it won’t spoil the paste.
Grind the peppers by using a meat grinder. On a kitchen scale measure the weight of the ground peppers to know how much salt is needed (I had 1,8 kilos of ground pepper paste from 2 kilograms of kápia peppers.)
Measure out the salt; the minimum amount is 150 grams per kilo, which you can increase up to 200 grams per kilo. (I prefer to add 200 grams per kilo, so 1,8 kg of ground peppers called for 360 grams of salt). Add salt and citric acid to the ground peppers and mix it well. Let the paste rest for 4-5 hours in a cool place (stir it occasionally).
The paste releases quite a lot of liquid. If it bothers you cause you want a thicker paste, you can strain it by using a fine sieve. Otherwise scoop the paste with the liquid in properly cleaned jars and put them on the pantry shelf. 1,8 kg of red pepper paste yielded 10 small (220 ml) jars.
When you use this red pepper paste in any meal, don’t forget to taste the dish before adding more salt to it.