This month’s Spice Guide is all about black peppercorns – they’re a ubiquitous feature of all kitchens, but how much do you actually know about them?! Never fear, I’m here to help!
History of Black Peppercorns
Peppercorns are native to South and Southeast Asia, and have been used in Indian cooking for thousands of years. They were a highly prized spice for trading, and were even referred to as ‘black gold’. By the time the 16th Century rolls around peppercorns are being grown throughout Southeast Asia, as well as Madagascar and China, and was being traded across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. They were also used in traditional medicines, as well as Ancient Egyptian mummification processes.
Black peppercorns are produced from the unripe fruit of the pepper plant, which are cooked briefly in hot water then left to dry out. They come from the same plant as green and white peppercorns, they are just produced following different processes. The black peppercorns are the most commonly used type,
Black Peppercorns Flavour Profile
Black peppercorns have a sharp, hot, zesty flavour and a pungent earthy, woody scent. It has the strongest flavour of all the peppercorn varieties. Peppercorn loses its flavour when pre-ground, so it’s best to grind it as required. Make use of that pepper grinder!
Given its history, black peppercorns are used widely in Indian and South Asian cuisines, although these days it is used in basically all cooking. It is often combined with other spices in blends, and is used to season pretty much anything savoury.
It complements all meats and vegetables, and can even be used to spice up fruits. Some of its most common uses are with eggs, cheese, soups, stocks, marinades, sauces, pastas stews and breads.
Common Spice Pairings
Black peppercorns pair well with most spices, but some of the best are:
As I mentioned, pepper is commonly used in spice blends – so I thought I’d share a recipe for Greek Seasoning!
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 1 tsp marjoram
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Mix it all together then use to season salads, vegetables, meats, fish – you name it. Store in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.