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- Peppercorns in Food - "Peppercorns are graded by size and provenance. Large berries are considered premium, and those from the Tellicherry and Malabar districts in India, which are considered the most pungent and complex, command high prices. "Whole peppercorns keep almost indefinitely, but ground or cracked pepper (peppercorns that have been cracked, not ground) begins to lose aroma and pungency almost immediately after processing. The difference is quite noticeable, too, between freshly ground and commercially ground or cracked pepper. "...good pepper flavor merits the investment in a quality pepper mill... we keep a light-colored wooden mill for white pepper and a dark one for black pepper. Mills with high-quality, adjustable grinding mechanisms can last a lifetime. With a mill, pepper can be ground into dishes at the stove or onto salads at the table. A heavy ceramic mortar and pestle is also useful for grinding pepper as well as other spices. Ceramic is far better than wood, which retains flavors and aromas, or metal, which can produce off-flavors and discoloration. Quantities of spices too large for the mortar can be ground in an electric spice grinder." "Besides stimulating the appetite and aiding digestion, pepper is a good flavor addition to most dishes. Black pepper is used with meat, fish, or poultry, in stocks, marinades, pickling, poaching, soups, sauces, stews, even in spice cakes and cookies. It is essential to the popular spice blend used for blackening meat and fish, and neither pepperpot soup nor steak au poivre could exist without it. We use whole peppercorns in our pickling spice mixture, in making stocks and marinades, and for poaching. "White pepper is often used in place of black where dark specks are undesirable or for a little less pungency. It is used in sauces, soups, mashed potatoes, omelets and other egg dishes, vichyssoise, and with fish and cauliflower. Green pepper is used most often in sauces, dressings, and soups; it seems to go well in vinaigrettes for green and potato salads. Pink peppercorns are used in sauces and dressings and for garnish. "Remarkably, the flavor of fruit is heightened by a little pepper. The French and Italians grind pepper over fresh strawberries or raspberries, sometimes adding a splash of vinegar. When we want to gild the deliciousness of fresh pears, we mix a little blue cheese with cream, spread it on pear slices and garnish with a generous grinding of white or black pepper. Some people like a dash of pepper on cantaloupe or watermelon." "One of the nations leading spice houses sells a pepper melange which is a mixture of equal parts black, white, green, and pink peppercorns. A pepper mixture from France...obtained recently also included one part of allspice berries. "In France and England, we have seen recipes for mignonette pepper - equal parts black and white peppercorns, ground coarsely..." From Susan Belsinger and Carolyn Dilles "Peppercorns Around the World" article in "The Herb Companion." Dec. 1992/Jan. 1993, Vol. 5, No. 2. Pp. 45-46. Posted by Cathy Harned.
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