Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Pepper comes from several species of a vinous plant, the spice being the fruit, called peppercorns. Black pepper is the dried, unripe berry. The corns are wrinkled and spherical, about 5 mm (1/8 in) in diameter. Malabar and Tellicherry pepper are both considered top quality due to size and maturity, with only 10% of the largest corns being graded as Tellicherry. White pepper starts out the same as the black, but are allowed to ripen more fully on the vine. The outer shell is then removed by soaking the berries in water until the shell falls off, or are held under flowing spring water, yielding a whiter, cleaner pepper. Green pepper is from the same fruit but is harvested before they mature. Pink pepper, which is not a vinous pepper, comes from the French island of Reunion. Pink peppercorns have a brittle, papery pink skin enclosing a hard, irregular seed, much smaller than the whole fruit.
Bouquet: aromatic, pungent
Flavour: Black pepper is very pungent and fiery.
White pepper is less pungent.
Green pepper is milder with a cleaner, fresher flavour.
Preparation and Storage
Pepper is best purchased whole, as freshly ground pepper is vastly superior to the ready ground powder. Whole peppercorns keep their flavor indefinitely but quickly loses its aroma and heat after it has been ground. Peppercorns are very hard but easily ground in a peppermill. Cracked pepper is the partially broken corns, crushed using a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin. Dried green peppercorns can be reconstituted for mashing into a paste by soaking in water. Peppercorns should be stored in airtight containers, away from sunlight.
Pepper is best ground directly on to food. With hot food it is best to add pepper well towards the end of the cooking process, to preserve its aroma. White pepper is used in white sauces rather than black pepper, which would give the sauce a speckled appearance. Green peppercorns can be mashed with garlic, cinnamon or to make a spiced butter or with cream to make a fresh and attractive sauce for fish. Pink peppercorns are called for in a variety of dishes, from poultry to vegetables and fish.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
Coat steaks with crushed peppercorns before cooking to create the classic dish, steak au poivre.
As the pungent taste of black pepper is a natural complement to the deep, berry-like flavor of venison, use it to flavor this meat when preparing venison steaks or venison stews.
Keep a pepper mill on your dining table so that you can add its intense spark to a host of different recipes that you prepare.
Olive oil, lemon juice, salt and cracked pepper make a delicious salad dressing.
Health of Benefits of Pepper
Improve Digestion and Promote Intestinal Health
Black pepper (Piper nigrum)stimulates the taste buds in such a way that an alert is sent to to the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid secretion, thereby improving digestion. Hydrochloric acid is necessary for the digestion of proteins and other food components in the stomach. When the body's production of hydrochloric acid is insufficient, food may sit in the stomach for an extended period of time, leading to heartburn or indigestion, or it may pass into the intestines, where it can be used as a food source for unfriendly gut bacteria, whose activities produce gas, irritation, and/or diarrhea or constipation.
Black pepper has long been recognized as a carminitive, (a substance that helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas), a property likely due to its beneficial effect of stimulating hydrochloric acid production. In addition, black pepper has diaphoretic (promotes sweating), and diuretic (promotes urination) properties.
Black pepper has demonstrated impressive antioxidant and antibacterial effects--yet another way in which this wonderful seasoning promotes the health of the digestive tract. And not only does black pepper help you derive the most benefit from your food, the outer layer of the peppercorn stimulates the breakdown of fat cells, keeping you slim while giving you energy to burn.
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