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Paprika pork is a very popular Hungarian dish that food experts believe traces back to the 16th to 17th century when Turk raiders invaded the region. There are several ways to make paprika-flavored pork dishes, which include porkolts and paprikas. When using paprika to make a pork dish, the cook should test the heat and flavor of the paprika because the spice varies depending on the type of pepper and other factors. For example, some peppers are smoked, adding a different flavor to the paprika. Paprika pork is an easy dish that most cooks can make at home.
The cooking method for paprika pork dates back to the Magyar tribes in the 5th century. The bogras, or cast-iron cauldron, was their primary cooking vessel, and many Hungarians still use bogras-style pots in modern times. The early cooks used campfires as a heat source, making this a perfect modern-day camping recipe. Some recipes call for using a Dutch oven and roasting the meat, while others recommend stove-top cooking.
In early times, people used different meat. When the marauding Turk tribes invaded the area, they took all of the farmers' livestock except the swine, which their religion forbade them to eat. Pork and wild chickens became the main protein source for Hungarians.
Although the Turks were problematic for the Hungarians, they did bring paprika to the region. The Hungarian land is well suited for raising peppers, and the Turks introduced pepper farming and processing to the Hungarians. Even in modern times, many Hungarians raise peppers for personal use. Often families have favorite pepper species that they grow and special techniques for making the paprika spice, including smoking the peppers.
Paprika is the main flavoring in paprika dishes, such as pork or chicken paprika. Dictionaries describe paprika as a spice and as a sweet red pepper as well as a reddish orange color. Usually a paprika-based dish has a characteristic orange coloring. The color may vary from red to brown, depending on the type of paprika used and the other ingredients. For example, the whiteness of sour cream changes the hue of the dish.
Porkolt is a ragout, or stew, that cooks make with pork, onions, and paprika. It is slow-cooked in the cauldron or in a modern slow cooker. The paprika pork is the same as porkolt, but the cook adds sour cream to the paprika and onion sauce. Most recipes call for the cook to bring out the full flavor of the paprika by cooking it in hot lard or oil.
When adding paprika to the hot lard or oil, a person needs to be careful, because burnt paprika can ruin a dish. Experienced cooks add the paprika to the hot grease off the heat source and add liquid and other ingredients before returning the pot to the fire. Most Hungarian cooks believe this step is essential to a good tasting paprika pork dish.