National peppercorn month
November 7th, 2012
09:00 AM ET
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While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.

Don’t sneeze! November is National Peppercorn Month.

Usually salt gets all the credit for making a dish stand out, but it’s time to focus some of that attention on pepper. Pepper has been around for more than 3,000 years, and back in the day, was even referred to as “black gold." The spice was so prized that pharaohs would be buried with peppercorns ... stuffed up their nostrils.

Peppercorns also had a hand in global exploration: When Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in search of India, he was looking for the source of pepper so that Portugal could control the trade of the precious spice.

Peppercorns are the dried fruit of the Piperaceae plant. Usually the peppercorns are ground, but some food preparations use them whole.

In addition to black pepper, today, you’ll find white, pink, green and even orange peppercorns in gourmet grocery stores and markets. While most people use peppercorns in savory applications, pink peppercorns are often used in dessert or even in cocktails.

If you’re going to make pepper the star of your dish, it’s worth investing in a good pepper grinder; one that has different settings for finer grinds will allow you to get more use out of your peppercorns. Peppercorns also last a long time if sealed in an airtight container.

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Filed under: Breakfast Buffet • Food Holidays • News

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Bruce Morgan

    I think you may have missed the point. The only way to get good pepper is to buy whole peppercorns and crush or grind them yourselves when you are ready to use them. Even when making a pepper steak I will crack the peppercorns before coating the meat with them. The only time that whole peppercorns are commonly used is when making the traditional green peppercorns sauce to go on the pepper steak. The green peppercorns are relatively mild and the sauce is delicious.

    We have a recipe for pepper steak (and others as well) at our web site. in the blog section.

    November 8, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  2. Bruce Morgan

    One reason that the different sea-salts get a lot of attention is the variation in color and textures. Visually they are quite different, but the flavors are pretty similar in most cases. Whole Black peppercorns are very similar looking (except for the rare Pohnpei pepper which is jet black.) However, if you take a close small of a bag of peppercorns of grind some up into your hand, the differences (terroir) reveal themselves. At we have eight different black peppercorns and they are all distinctive and subtly different enough to make it interesting to do taste comparisons.

    Last piece of advice. Never buy pre-ground pepper even if it is advertised as gourmet. Once cracked or ground the flavor diminish rapidly. That is why we don't even sell it.

    November 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  3. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    I like pepper, but not peppercorns in my food. Too much.

    And that corned beef spice mixture is putrid.

    November 7, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
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