The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

11:17 PM

Food of the Day - Pepper

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

Of all the ingredients we ever use to spice up a dish, next to salt, pepper is probably the most common (and amazing) of them all.  Today, it is considered a staple, and is added to a plethora of foods, from soup, to meats, to salads, to just about anything!  Pepper has a wonderful flavor that has enticed people the world over for centuries. This spice from plants in native India has been used to add flavor to dishes for thousands of years!  In modern times, you can find it in every home, and on tables in just about every restaurant around the world. 

Pepper is the fruit or seed of the any of various plants of the Piper genus.  However, the ground black pepper you find on the table in fast food chains is the lowest of lowly forms of pepper, and if this is what you think of when pepper comes to your mind, you need to open your eyes to a new world of pepper flavors! 
Depending on how it is created, there can be various types of pepper.  Black pepper is made from the dried unripe fruits of the plant.  White pepper, on the other hand, is the dried seed of the plant, with the "fruit" removed.  Green pepper is the cured or dried and treated unripe fruit of the plant.  Red or orange pepper is the preserved ripe fruit of the plant, while most dry "pink" peppercorns found today are actually the fruits of a different type of plant, often mixed with other types of peppercorns. 

Try making use of different types of pepper for different applications.  Each has a unique flavor, and can be used to spruce up a variety of dishes.  Green peppercorns tend to have a fruity, bright flavor, while black peppercorns are spicy and pungent; white peppercorns have a slightly different flavor that may ten to be a bit less spicy, and pink peppercorns are a little more sweet, and less overpowering.  Try mixing different types for a truly tasty way to augment the flavor of any dish.
Tip - White peppercorns can be used in dishes where a light color needs to be retained, such as cream sauces, where black pepper would create a color disparity that could ruin the effect of the dish.

For best results, always ground your pepper by hand just before use.  The flavor of fresh pepper is vastly superior to pre-packaged ground peppers, and you will never regret keeping a pepper mill on hand for the purpose.  This way, pepper can be ground straight into or onto your food, and you can control the fine or coarse texture of your pepper. Pepper can also be ground in a spice grinder, or by hand using a mortar and pestle

Other Types of Pepper
Other types of pepper that are not related to the plant from which black pepper comes are Sichuan pepper and long pepper.  Sichuan pepper (also known as Chinese pepper) is often used in many Asian cuisines, and has a tangy flavor that does not have the spice of black pepper.  Thus, it is often used to augment the flavor of dishes that have other spicy ingredients.

Long pepper is a very interesting type of pepper has an elongated, cone-like shape.  The dried fruit is ground like traditional pepper (thought these would not fit in a normal pepper mill), and has a similar, yet slightly spicier taste.  Long pepper is not commonly used in most cuisines today, but can be an interesting rarity if you happen to find some.

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