Saturday, 30 June 2007


Good pepper makes such a difference. It's nose-tingling, lively, feisty and the making of many a meal.

A quick look at Wikipedia reveals all:

"Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The same fruit is also used to produce white pepper and green pepper. Black pepper is native to South India and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is a small drupe five millimetres in diameter, dark red when fully mature, containing a single seed.

Dried ground pepper is one of the most common spices in European cuisine and its descendants, having been known and prized since antiquity for both its flavour and its use as a medicine. The spiciness of black pepper is due to the chemical piperine. Ground black peppercorn, usually referred to simply as "pepper", may be found on nearly every dinner table in some parts of the world, often alongside table salt.

The word "pepper" is derived from the Sanskrit pippali, the word for long pepper via the Latin piper which was by the Romans to refer both to pepper and long pepper, as the Romans erroneously believed that both of these spices were derived from the same plant. The English word for pepper is derived from the Old English pipor. The Latin word is also the source of German pfeffer, French poivre, Dutch peper, and other similar forms. In the 16th century, pepper started referring to the unrelated New World chile peppers as well. "Pepper" was used in a figurative sense to mean "spirit" or "energy" at least as far back as the 1840s; in the early 20th century, this was shortened to pep.

Pepper gets its spicy heat mostly from the piperine compound, which is found both in the outer fruit and in the seed. Refined piperine, milligram-for-milligram, is about one per cent as hot as the capsaicin in chile peppers. The outer fruit layer, left on black pepper, also contains important odour-contributing terpenes including pinene, sabinene, limonene, caryophyllene, and linalool, which give citrusy, woody, and floral notes. These scents are mostly missing in white pepper, which is stripped of the fruit layer. White pepper can gain some different odours (including musty notes) from its longer fermentation stage.

Pepper loses flavour and aroma through evaporation, so airtight storage helps preserve pepper's original spiciness longer. Pepper can also lose flavour when exposed to light, which can transform piperine into nearly tasteless isochavicine. Once ground, pepper's aromatics can evaporate quickly; most culinary sources recommend grinding whole peppercorns immediately before use for this reason."

So pepper is a fruit! Never knew that.

Here's the pepper I've been using recently. I bought it from the pepper man at Borough market...

It's called Tellicherry Garbled Extra Special Bold and is superb. I love the way all the pepper corns look like mini footballs. Just don't spill it all over the floor!

With such good pepper, it would be sacrilege to use a crappy pepper grinder... so I invested in my pride and joy... my baseball bat pepper grinder.

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