- A grinder filled with whole peppercorns on the dining table lets everyone season their own plate to taste and adjust the size of the flakes, from fine to coarse.
- Pepper is a universal favourite, loved around the world. But it rarely gets top billing. A few examples of its starring roles: pepper-crusted French steak au poivre, Italian pollo all diavola, or devil’s chicken, and stir-fried Chinese pepper steak.
- Whole peppercorns are a must-have for pickling. The flavourings may vary—you can include mustard seed, bay leaves, coriander seed, rosemary and even chili pepper—but the idea is the same. That is to infuse the vegetables—cucumbers, cauliflower, green beans and more—with delicious flavour.
- Brining is an excellent way to infuse flavour into larger cuts of meat, such as whole chickens, turkeys and pork roasts. A good soak in water spiked with salt, sugar and spices before cooking helps them retain moisture as well. Add whole peppercorns to any brining recipe for mouthwatering results.
- Black pepper and browned onions bring a combination of heat and sweet to any beef stew. We love to add extra grindings of fresh pepper to slow-cooked beef, whether the braising liquid is broth, beer or tomato.
- Talk about sugar, spice and everything nice! Desserts with a hint of pepper are the latest trend at fine restaurants. It’s easy to make them yourself—no culinary experience required. Just set your grinder on fine, then add generous amounts of ground pepper to your favourite brownie, chocolate cake or fudge frosting recipe.
Q: If I don’t have whole black peppercorns on hand, what makes a good substitute?
A: Any black pepper—coarse or finely ground—will add spice and heat at the table or stove. For slow-cooked soups or stews, add ground pepper near the end of cooking rather than early on. For pickling, whole peppercorns work best, but you can also use ground pepper. If you have no black pepper of any kind in the pantry, substitute white pepper or a dash of red pepper, also called cayenne. Red pepper is chili pepper and much hotter than black or white pepper, so use a light hand.
Today black peppercorns are abundant, gracing kitchens and tables around the world. But in ancient times, they were a rare and valuable commodity, sometimes used to pay dowries and even rent. The search for black peppercorns is one of the quests that brought Christopher Columbus to the New World. Today, peppercorns are still one of the world’s most valued and beloved spices.