Flavor: Warm, oily, and full-bodied
Use with: Red meats, game, fish with strong flavors, and seafood. In small quantities, black pepper also enhances the flavor of lighter dishes, such as eggs, salads, etc.
If you were to hop in a time machine and travel back to 1000 BC, you’d see a green vine winding its way around the trunks of palm trees and eucalyptus in Southern India. This vine is called piper nigrum, a perennial vine that can reach up to 33 ft (10m) in height. Piper nigrum produces black pepper, one of the oldest spices in the world. You’d find the first reference to the spice as “pippali” in Sanskrit!
Jump forward to the Middle Ages, and pepper is worth its actual weight in gold. Some landlords would even prefer their tenants to pay rent in pepper as opposed to currency! It becomes such a valued spice that the search for pepper and an easier way to transport it contributes to the beginning of the Age of Exploration, even spurring Vasco de Gama’s voyage from Europe to India in 1498!
Additionally, the trade of pepper contributed to the amazing success of the ports of Alexandria, Genoa and Venice. This “King of Spices” has had an immeasurable effect on spice trade, globalization, and cuisine throughout history.
If you were to joyride your time machine back to the present day, you would see that black pepper still comes mostly from India, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brazil. The technology used to harvest the black pepper may be more advanced, but the process has stayed the same throughout time.
The berries that grow on the piper nigrum vines are separated from the leaves and then left to dry in the sun. Green berries turn black, wrinkly, and oily when dried and become the black pepper that we love and know so well.
FLAVOR AND USAGE
Black pepper is the most popular of the peppercorns. There is also white, pink, and green pepper, but we will touch on these in another post. Black pepper, with its warm and oily taste, has the most distinct flavor of the four. The flavor from black pepper tends to stick around on your tongue for a while after you swallow.
The flavors of the black pepper are the tastiest when freshly ground. In the case of grinding, use a peppermill to achieve the best flavor profile.