Featured Herbs and Spices

Peppercorns Know Your Herbs and Spices

peppermill

Do you grind your own pepper? Most cooks nowadays own a peppermill or two for that fresh ground pepper taste every TV chef and magazine recipe includes.
In a lot of restaurants you will see a server hover over your salad and ask, “Would you like fresh ground pepper?”
Next time ask, “What color are the peppercorns?”
Chances are those little dried beads are black. But do you know why?
Think of peppercorns the same way you think of olives and bell peppers. The color relates to the maturity of the seed.
Green, black and white peppercorns come from the same plant, (piper nigrum). Seed color depends on which stage the peppercorns are in the drying process.
Green and black peppercorns are both picked and dried as unripe fruit. Green ones are treated, usually with a sulfide to retain the color and keep the smooth texture. Black jacketed ones are usually naturally dried. This process gives those seeds also known as drupes their distinct, wrinkled texture. Naturally dried black drupes are very shelf stable but as with all spices, can lose its potency if stored too long.
At this stage I feel it is an aesthetic reason to choose between the two colors. Both are dried at the same stage of development.
White peppercorns are the actual seed removed from the dried black casing. Since some of the heat is found in and under the skin, it is debatable if the true seed is hotter or not. Try both let me know what you think.
Pink peppercorns are from a different plant, (Baies rose) and have a sweet quality also associated with it.
Fast fact: Peppercorns are the most widely traded spice in the world with Americans eating an average of over 1/4 pound per person per year.
Here are some variations on a classic (and easy) recipe using peppercorns, Steak au Poivre.
Alton Brown’s version
Simply Recipes

Anthony Bourdain’s Steak au Poivre from Delish.com

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About the author

Cindy's Recipes and Writings

As a professional cook, I love creating exciting new recipes on the job as well as at home. Assisting in teaching low-income families how to buy, store and prepare healthy food through Penn State’s alliance with Pennsylvania’s Supercupboard Program was very rewarding. During my 11 years with the Master Gardener program, I taught horticultural therapy to assisted living patients using healthful, fr
esh grown food as a focal point. . My hands-on programs and instruction helped hundreds of children and adults learn about where their food comes from and how important fresh food is for your body.
Currently I’m a cook at a college in Pennsylvania. We prepare everything we can from scratch, including our potato chips that tout the seasoning of the day!
Of course I write about food; it's in my blood!

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