Black pepper came from the Eastern coast of India, where it grows as a wild jungle plant. It was brought to Africa and America relatively late – in 20th century. Pepper was one of the first eastern spices that conquered Europe, starting with ancient Greek and Rome. In Roman Empire pepper occupied a stable place among other commercial goods.
In Middle Ages pepper held an important place in the European cookery. It was used to give a nice and savoury taste to dry and perishable foods and to suppress the taste of bad meat. For over 100 years Portugal monopolised the import of pepper to Europe, but the monopoly was taken over by Netherlands and held up until the very end of 18th century. Nowadays the largest black pepper manufacturers are USA, Russia, Germany, Japan and England.
There are several varieties of pepper that are used in cookery.
Black pepper is an unripe fruit which had been quickly dried in the sun or in the fire. Bitter burning taste of black pepper is due to the content of essential oils. High quality black pepper drowns in water because of the large unit weight.
White pepper is made of the same fruits as the black pepper except for the fact that they are used ripe and without the cover. White pepper has a less burning taste and more delicate scent.
Both black and white pepper can be sold whole or ground.
Whole pepper is used in meat, fish and vegetable soups, marinades and sauces. It should be added at the very start of cooking. Ground pepper can be added to mince meat, fish, schnitzels and others. Ground pepper is also served at the table together with salt, vinegar and mustard. Pepper should be added just before the cooking is over, otherwise the dish may acquire to much bitterness.
Normally 0.01-0.05g (2-5 peppercorns) are put into main courses and approximately 3g per 1 litre of sauce.
It is better to buy it whole and ground as needed, because it loses the scent very fast. In any form pepper should be stored in a tightly closed container.