As with most of the Portuguese recipes I have written in my blog, one common ingredient that crops up is the use of pimento paste. What is this “pimento paste” you ask ? A very special concoction with an interesting history. The pimento or pimentão, is a bell pepper, also known in Latin as Capsicum. The “pimentão” or large bell pepper, botanically known as fruits, although generally considered in the culinary world to be vegetables. There is also the cherry pepper which has commonly been referred as pimento in the English speaking world. The pepper is mainly used in creating the red filler for Spanish olives and not to be confused with the Pimento traditionally used by the Portuguese in their paste. In fact, it’s the red bell pepper that has been widely used in the making of pimento pastes within the Portuguese community. Some Portuguese natives refer their paste as “Pimenta Moida” the second word pronounced mo-wee-da, which translates to ground or puréed pepper.
There are two main available textures: The Incopil brand, which is a deep red thick paste similar to that of tomato paste. The other widely commercialized paste has a more liquified consistency which includes sparse remnants of the yellow seeds. Some brands of the paste available in the Ontario market are Ferma, Borges and Atlantic. In the U.S. there’s Corisca and Incopil, just to name a few. In both of these textured varieties, there’s a high sodium content, which would reduce the need for additional salt as you cook. Typically these sauces are available in “sweet” and “hot” taste intensities. Some Portuguese food connoisseurs refer the very hot sauces as ‘Malagueta’ pronounced mal-ah-ghe-tah. Which again the use of red peppers although the “hot” genus plants Portugal peppers are incorporated into the mix. According to my experience in the Portuguese Canadian culture, these sauces, (both sweet and hot), were made at home during the fall harvest season. The traditional gathering of farm bushels full of red peppers bought at local farmer’s markets and specialty stores. Washing and preparing the peppers to be fed through a meat grinder, followed by adding coarse sea salt to the red liquid, and then transferring into sterilized jars, a very time-consuming process. Although the end product, a well used cooking and table condiment in most Portuguese kitchens throughout the year.
Today most people buy their pimento paste at Portuguese food stores, online sites and large well stocked grocery chains such as Fortino’s and Metro. These wonderful authentic food enhancers can cost between $2 Cdn. to $3. US depending on the supply and demand of the region. So if you want to add some Portuguese authentic flavour to your everyday meals, don’t forget to add a little ‘Pimento paste’ to your food shopping cart … or as some Portuguese would say ” Pimenta Moida“. In my view, it’s like having “the essence of Azorean cuisine” in a jar.
Written by Manuela (aka Mannie) Da Silva
Creator of “A Portuguese Cook – The Series” on Facebook