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Cooking with Pepper in the Kitchen

Perhaps the most widely used spice, black pepper is seen on dinner tables throughout the world, and used in many dishes. This spice, which is native to southern India, has been popular since ancient times and was once quite costly, but today can be enjoyed by most everyone.

As anyone who has used too much of it as a seasoning will attest, pepper can be harsh and spicey. It gets the spicy taste from a compound called piperine, and this spicy flavor makes it great for bland foods. It is also a great spice to use during wintertime. It is traditional to use more of the spice Northern India in winter because it reputably adds warmth to the dishes. It is also used in warmer climates simply to add some zip to a dish and is one of the four spices in the Indian classic 'garam masala' spice combo.

Black pepper can even be used to flavor drinks. Black Pepper Schnapps can easily be made from vodka and peppercorns, and later used to flavor dishes.

Just like any other spice, pepper can lose itís flavor during storage so it is much better to buy the whole peppercorn and then grind it as needed. In fact, you will find handheld pepper mills in many restaurants and homes just for this purpose.

When using pepper during cooking, it is preferable to add it during the end of the cooking process. This way the aroma and taste will remain at its peak. If you are making a white sauce and donít want little black dots, you can always use white pepper which is actually made from the same plant, but harvested a bit differently resulting in a white color and a bit less pungent flavor.

Pepper will lose flavor via evaporation so airtight storage is preferable. You should also keep it away from the light as this can cause a reaction in the piperine making it tasteless. It is best to grind the peppercorn right before you want to use the spice. This has been common practice since early times and pepper mills were found in European kitchens as far back as the 14th century. They were ground using mortar and pestle long before that.

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