Black pepper is one of the most widely used spices in the world. Belonging to the Piperaceae or pepper family, black pepper (Piper nigrum) is the fruit of a vine that is picked before ripening and dried in the sun. With a more intense flavor than white pepper (red pepper berries with their skin removed, and the peppercorn washed, and dried), black pepper is hotter and has a richer aromatic palette. Finely ground, coarsely ground, or in whole peppercorns, it brings harmony to everything by enhancing the flavor of savory and sweet culinary preparations.
Black pepper is readily found in supermarkets and gourmet grocery stores packaged in jars or packets of different sizes. Prices can range between 70 euro cents and 6 euros, with this difference due to the source and quality of the pepper. Lower priced black peppercorns or ground black pepper are made up of a mixture of black peppercorns from different countries, while high-quality black pepper comes from a single country or a single plantation where the producing conditions guarantee a standard of quality. Whatever the case, choose black peppercorns for grinding at the last minute for optimum flavor. Ground pepper can quickly lose its flavor. Note that gray pepper is a simple mixture of ground black and white peppercorns.
As with all peppercorns, it is advisable to grind black peppercorns just before use. This will develop the aromatic strength of the pepper. The peppercorns can also be crushed.
Black pepper should be added to a preparation toward the end of the cooking process. Prolonged exposure to heat will destroy its flavor.
Black pepper is almost indispensable for flavoring all kinds of dishes, whether vegetable, meat, or fish.
Black peppercorns can be stored for several years away from light and moisture. If ground, black pepper can only be stored for three months, otherwise its qualities will be altered.
Black pepper is high in nutrients, particularly phosphorous and magnesium.
These are several varieties of black pepper that all belong to the same family (Piper nigrum). The best known Asian varieties are Sarawak black pepper, which comes from Borneo and has a woody and acidic flavor. It is an excellent match for fish, white meats, and fresh goat cheeses. Grown in Cambodia, Kampot black pepper has a minty flavor that is well-suited to white meats and sauces, while Malabar black pepper, the noblest of Indian peppers, is used to season fish and vegetables. From Africa, Penja black pepper, grown in Cameroon, is a perfect match for pork and fish. Finally, Madagascar black pepper, with its fruity and woody aromas ,is perfectly suited to white meats, chicken, and pasta. These black pepper varieties are readily available from gourmet grocery stores and online retailers.