Pepper 101

December 09, 2013

Want to spice up your foods and add some festive flair? Choose different colored pepper and find out the basics here...

What are Peppercorns?
Peppercorns are the berries of the Piperaceae plant. Piper nigrum green, white or black and range in pungency from mild to strong.

How to Buy:
Depending on your preference, organic or conventional, whole or pre-ground can be found in the markets. Some pepper come whole with a built in grinder.

How to Read the Label:
All peppercorns are imported, primarily from: India, Reunion, Thailand, and Indonesia. Check for expiration date, as pungency depends on freshness.

White peppercorns begin black and then ripen to white; black is named for the territory where it grows: Malabar, Tellicherry, Singapore, Bangkok, Sarawak, Belém.  Green peppercorns are milder, fruitier; they are actually immature blacks that are steamed and dehydrated. Good in French and Creole cooking. Blends, using all the colors aka “rainbows”; French blend mixes green and black; European uses white and black; commercial blends use lemon, garlic with ground black pepper.

How to Use:
Use whole or pre-ground, or grind with mortar and pestle or in a grinder. Use sparingly and at end of cooking for piquant flavor. Adds bite to cookies, brines, vinaigrettes. Crush for rubs with other spices. Use white when pale color is aesthetically desired. Good for sauces, fish, mashed potatoes and more!

How to Store:
Peppercorns are best kept in small, tight-fitting metal or glass jars or canisters away from moisture and heat - which can deplete the essential oils that give peppers their fragrance, color, and taste. 

Health Benefits:
Piperine increases absorption of selenium, vitamin B, beta-carotene; stimulates digestive juices, breaks down protein in the stomach. Peppercorns contain many antioxidants and may helps diminish flatulence. 

Smarter Shopping:
Pink (Schinus mollee), are delicate, fragrant, sweet, spicy while Szechuan (Sichuan) are spicy dried berry from the prickly ash tree, are not true peppercorns.

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