Widely acknowledged as the “king of spices,” pepper has had a far-reaching effect on commerce, voyages of discovery, cultures and cuisines throughout history. During the Middle Ages, it was often used as a form of currency between tenants and landlords. It was also a major motivating factor in Columbus’ voyage to the New World, leading to the subsequent misnaming of the allspice berry as the ‘Jamaica Pepper’ or pimenta.
From a cooking standpoint, it is hard to find a dish that doesn’t include at least a dash of pepper. Its bold taste adds a spiciness and intensity that enhances the natural flavors of foods. Veggies, meats, eggs…almost any meal can benefit from the addition of this spice. It is even a ingredient in some chai tea recipes!
Types of Pepper
There are three different types of true peppercorns: black, green and white, all of which come from the same plant, Piper nigrum. In addition, there are multiple varieties of this same pepper plant hailing from different geographical regions. The most popular of these varieties include Lampong and Tellicherry.
Black Peppercorns are the dried, mature fruit of the pepper vine (Piper nigrum) and are by far the most popular form of pepper. Their pungent flavor and lingering heat is great for almost any recipe. Put in your pepper mill, coarsely grind them, or add whole to many sauces or slow cooking dishes.
Green Peppercorns are the unripe fruit of the pepper vine (Piper nigrum). They are picked and dried before they mature into black peppercorns. Green Peppercorns are the spiciest of all the peppercorns and can be used in place of black pepper for an extra kick. We love them in our Brining Spices mix!
White peppercorns are actually black peppercorns. These peppercorns have been soaked in water and the outer black skin removed. White pepper has a mild, subtle flavor that works well with chicken and fish, as well as white sauces and Asia cuisine.
Our smoked peppercorns are bold, delicious beauties, smoked over a blend of 7 different woods to create a well-rounded smoky bouquet. Use on roasted or grilled meats, roasted or sautéed green veggies like broccoli, green beans or brussel sprouts, or potato wedges and sweet potato fries.
Tellicherry peppercorns are a superior grade of peppercorn from the eastern coast of India. These peppercorns are left to ripen on the vine for a longer period of time, which produces a fuller, complex flavor that is a bit fruity. Grind in a pepper mill or use whole in dishes like soups, stews, stocks and marinades.
Our 4 Peppercorn Blend is a flavorful mix of green, black, white, and pink peppercorns. A couple twists from a grinder full of this blend adds extra complexity and flavor to any dish! It’s perfect to put in your pepper mill and use as regular pepper, or add the corns whole to pot roast or crock pot dishes.
Being the “king of spices” is bound to illicit some imitators. Although falsely labeled as “peppercorns,” these seasonings are delicious none the less. If you are looking to spice up your usual pepper routine, give one of these imposters a try!
Pink peppercorns are not actually a true pepper, but the fruit of a tree native to the Andean region of Peru. Pink peppercorns have a fruity, nutty, sweet flavor reminiscent of maraschino cherries. Add them whole to sauces or salad dressings, coarsely grind and used on tenderloin or filets. Their refreshing flavor also compliments game meats and other rich foods very well.
Another pepper imposter, Szechuan peppercorns are actually the outer pod of the fruit of an aromatic shrub native to the Central Province of China. They have an unusual, sharp, slightly woody flavor with a hint of citrus. They also produce a slight numbing effect which bursts into a tingling sensation on the tip of the tongue. This complex and surprising flavor adds intensity to chicken, seafood and vegetable dishes and is a must-have for Chinese cuisine.
Dry-roasting the berries for 3-4 minutes over medium heat will bring out the best flavor (be sure to discard any burnt berries). Let cool, then grind and use as needed.
We love using pepper in our seasoning blends and rubs. Here are a few of our favorites that highlight pepper:
Our Black and Bold blend definitely has personality! Not one to hide from your taste buds, this seasoning packs a black pepper punch! The fresh flavors of dill and garlic, plus a hint of cayenne, round out this delicious and versatile blend. Perfect for burgers, steaks, pork chops, and chicken, especially on the grill. Also try on salmon (one of our favorites), roasted broccoli, brussel sprouts, potato wedges, and sweet potato fries!
Reach for our Top Shelf Butcher’s Rub whenever you fire up the grill! Smoky, bold pepper flavor, with a touch of sweetness and heat, make this blend a perfect companion to burgers, steaks and pork chops. Top Shelf Butcher’s Rub is also a great blend for larger cuts of meat like brisket, pork shoulder and Prime Rib. You can even rub it on beef roasts destined for the Crock Pot or Instant Pot.
This classic combination of garlic and black pepper, along with onion, bell pepper and a few other special spices, makes the perfect blend for just about everything! Sprinkle on veggies, eggs, burgers, or steaks. Even shake it on a bowl of popcorn!