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Without doubt one of the most important spices of all, pepper is used universally in all of its forms and has been used as a seasoning for centuries.

Green Peppercorns

As with salt there are different types of peppercorns and each with its own nuance of taste. Donít be fooled by thinking pepper is just pepper, taste a freshly crushed Jamaican peppercorn and the bouquet of cloves and allspice is intoxicating, completely different from the warm, subtle spice of Indian pepper, for example.

Peppercorns fall into three categories; green, white and black. From these come the dried, cured in brine and the lesser-used pink peppercorn.

Green peppercorns, best known for their use in Thai dishes and as the peppercorn of choice for peppercorn sauce or sauce au poivre, it is the unripe fruit of the pepper tree known as piper nigrum. Rarely seen dried it has a milder flavour than the white and black fruit and is excellent with beef, duck and pork dishes.

White peppercorns are the inner part of the fruit and are only picked when fully ripe, the skin and remaining flesh is removed and it is this variety, which is so prevalent in salt and peppershakers on tables across the country. I find the taste of white pepper less agreeable than black, it still has its uses in white sauces and for seasoning white fish when the sight of black specks in the finished sauce can spoil the end result.

Black peppercorns are picked when still in their green stage and then left to dry. They can be incredibly aromatic and I particularly love the Indian black pepper from the Malabar region. Whenever possible crush peppercorns to order to maximize the flavour and freshness.

Content and picture © Miles Collins