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JoNorvelleWalker

Sources for High-Quality Peppercorns

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Posted (edited)

I don't know how it happened.  I have run out of black pepper.  What are the best varieties and sources of black pepper?  I regularly purchase pepper from Penzeys and The Spice House, but I might be tempted to try a different vendor.  Most recently I finished a bag of Cambodian black pepper from The Spice House, however all their Cambodian peppers are currently out of stock.

 

Meanwhile I topped up my pepper mill with Cambodian red pepper from The Spice House.  Their Cambodian red pepper is nice and different, but not the same as black.  The red is also more expensive.  Though as I said, neither Cambodian pepper is in stock, so it doesn't matter much.

 

From memory Cook's Illustrated recommends the house brand black pepper from Walmart.

 

 


Edited by Smithy Adjusted title for broader scope (log)
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Lately, I've been using the Vietnamese peppercorn from Kalustyan's - it is very reminiscent of what I had all over central and south Vietnam. http://foodsofnations.com/

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14 hours ago, KennethT said:

Lately, I've been using the Vietnamese peppercorn from Kalustyan's - it is very reminiscent of what I had all over central and south Vietnam. http://foodsofnations.com/

 

That site was an interesting rabbit hole.

 

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Posted (edited)

I was in Maine this past weekend and wandered into a store called "Skordo", https://skordo.com/collections/salts-peppers

 

They were a touch twee, but nonetheless delightful. 

 

They had something I'd like to incorporate -- although I admit I didn't buy anything -- I was on the road and my suitcase space was already filled with Maine liquor) -- but anyway, they had this thing, dehydrated apple cider vinegar.  I have never encountered it, but think it could be very interesting.  They were so nice I'm inclined to order from them the next time I'm in need of stuff.  

 

Anyway, just FYI.  Skordo.  

 

ETA:  I hit up La Boite in March when I was hunting up pink nitrite.  They were nice, too.  


Edited by SLB (log)
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9 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

That site was an interesting rabbit hole.

 

To be honest, I never use the website, but I'm in their store all the time, which is more of a rabbit hole than the website!

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16 minutes ago, weinoo said:

Sometimes I wonder about the freshness of some of their spices.  But all in all, I like the shop a lot, though the prices aren't silly low like they were 10 years ago.

Their prices on spices aren't too bad (definitely higher than they used to be), but on a lot of other things (like fresh kaffir lime leaves or frozen coconut milk) borders on exhorbitant.  But, considering that I live a 5 minute walk away, it's easier to justify those prices than shlepping down to Chinatown when I don't have much free time.  I buy a select few of their spices very frequently (I tend to make a lot of the same type of food) and have never had an issue with freshness of the stuff I get.  Then again, I don't use about 99% of the store, so take my experience with a grain of salt!

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@JoNorvelleWalker Since you are in NJ and seem to walk just about everywhere for your shopping, going into NYC to Kalustyans or La Boîte seems unlikely. I assume Kalustyans has a mail order component. For most purposes I find that Indian Tellicherry pepper is the tastiest black pepper. It is supposed to be the same species as Malabar pepper, which is also grown in India, only allowed to grow bigger thus giving it a more complex flavor. I can usually tell the difference between high quality Tellicherry and decent Malabar. Most reputable spice merchants with lots of online business such as Penzey's probably have good quality pepper and high turnover, so it is probably fresh as well. I really don't fine the need or use for specialty black peppers, unless you count Sechuan peppercorns as black pepper. But that's a whole different thing.

 

I went to La Boîte a few years ago and it was a kick. I came away with smoked cinnamon, which was really exotic. I could enjoy it by merely opening the jar and breathing. Turned out be great in a rub for bbq meats, but I don't eat a lot of meat, so it lasted quite a while. A pinch in curry was fun too. Here's something I never thought to do: make campfire cinnamon toast with it. Mainly it was an expensive novelty.

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@Katie Meadow in my spice cabinet live many expensive novelties which I have never used.  Until quite recently black cardamom was one.

 

Thanks to everyone.  I placed my order from Penzeys for Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Black Peppercorns.  I chose Penzeys this time over The Spice House because there was other stuff from Penzeys that I wanted, and my favorite The Spice House black peppercorns were out of stock.

 

Plus, I spent enough that I qualified for a free jar of Penzeys Ozark seasoning, so now I can cook like Rob.  I live near a whole pond of bulrush, just sprinkle some on.

 

 

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Im a fan of Penzeys

 

I think The Spice House is an off-shoot.  many items are the same

 

but Chicago Steak is not one of those , and a favorite here.  try just a little on salmon, and you will be hooked

 

I also get P's Extra Bold.

 

Im fortunate to have a chanber vac , and I vac the spices I get from P's as they last much longer

 

Vac bags are very cheap , and sometimes I trim the larger ones into two narrow bags.  I then re-seal those bags after

 

I take out some for use over a week or two.

 

but 

 

Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Black Peppercorns

 

is my favorite.

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6 hours ago, rotuts said:

Im a fan of Penzeys

 

I think The Spice House is an off-shoot.  many items are the same

 

but Chicago Steak is not one of those , and a favorite here.  try just a little on salmon, and you will be hooked

 

I also get P's Extra Bold.

 

Im fortunate to have a chanber vac , and I vac the spices I get from P's as they last much longer

 

Vac bags are very cheap , and sometimes I trim the larger ones into two narrow bags.  I then re-seal those bags after

 

I take out some for use over a week or two.

 

but 

 

Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Black Peppercorns

 

is my favorite.

 

I like both Penzeys and The Spice House.  Same family though I believe The Spice House is the original business.  I vacuum seal some spices such as vanilla* but would it be worth it for black pepper?

 

 

*yet the vanilla scent comes right through the bags.  Reminds me, I need to make a batch of ice cream.

 

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I've bought Tellicherry peppercorns from a few different sources on Amazon over the years at pretty good prices. They've ranged from good to amazing. The best ones have a really 3-d flavor with all kinds of floral notes. They're less piquant than ordinary pepper. 

 

My understanding is that Tellicherry doesn't really signify anything about the variety or origin of the pepper ... it just refers to the size of the peppercorns (big). This may be one factor accounting for the variable quality. 

 

I'll try Penzy's next time, since they have a store in NYC. I'm a bit wary both of their prices and their practice of leaving spices uncovered in bulk bins. But the quality may be there.

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Notes from the underbelly

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It has been a few years since I wrote about my favorite vendor for peppercorns and I had a page on my blog about them. 

It was at the time named Pepper Passion and I was just one of the customers who was "passionate" about it.

It is now  SIR SPICE   and they have the FRESHEST peppercorns of any vendor and I have tried almost all because I have been

a long time fanatic about  peppers.  I do get Long pepper and Comet tail (cubeb) from another vendor because Pepper Passion did not carry them.

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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I ordered some from earlier this week. From Amazon I got the  DK Harvest ( Dien Khanh)brand ,I had ordered the Tellicherry, but was sent the Vietnamese black. The peppercorns are tiny, but have a wonderful peppery taste and fragrant aroma...nice and fresh, air tight sealed bag. Only $8.90 for a 16oz. Would definitely order from them again.  

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And this old porch is like a steaming greasy plate of enchiladas,With lots of cheese and onions and a guacamole salad ...This Old Porch...Lyle Lovett

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11 hours ago, paulraphael said:

My understanding is that Tellicherry doesn't really signify anything about the variety or origin of the pepper ... it just refers to the size of the peppercorns (big).

 

This is pretty much correct. The variety is always piper negrum. "Tellicherry" are the 3 largest grades of Indian black pepper. They are:

Tellicherry Garbled Special Extra Bold (TGSEB), 97-98% larger than 4.75mm diameter, no more than 0.5% "extraneous matter", no more than 11% moisture,

Tellicherry Garbled Extra Bold, same other than 4.25mm+
Tellicherry Garbled , ditto, 4mm+

 

Malabar pepper comes from the same plants, but is made up of smaller and/or unsorted peppercorns. "Malabar Garbled Grade 1 (MG-1)" is roughly the same spec as Tellicherry for corns larger than 3.25mm. Lower Malabar grades have no minimum size specs and allow increasingly higher amounts of "extraneous matter".

 

With (reasonably fresh; old corns are always garbage) black pepper, size matters. The reason Tellicherry commands a premium is that larger corns have a citrus/floral aroma and milder heat; smaller corns are hotter, but one-dimensional. The aromas in the larger corns are largely lost with cooking, and larger corns are a lot more expensive, so I use them for finishing, and cheaper/smaller corns for cooking. As an aside, the largest sizes don't work in all pepper grinders.

 

I have seen (and, sadly, bought) pepper being sold as TGSEB that obviously wasn't, so if you're paying for Tellicherry, knowing which grade and having a trustworthy supplier is essential. I haven't found one here, so these days I'm using Tellicherry-sized, but ungraded, peppercorns from a small domestic supplier in Vietnam. They're at least as good.

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Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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@andiesenji

 

thank you for the ref. to 

 

Sir Spice

 

lots of interesting infer there.

 

Ive never had two different ( black ) peppers at the same time to compare !

 

:/

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21 hours ago, andiesenji said:

It has been a few years since I wrote about my favorite vendor for peppercorns and I had a page on my blog about them. 

It was at the time named Pepper Passion and I was just one of the customers who was "passionate" about it.

It is now  SIR SPICE   and they have the FRESHEST peppercorns of any vendor and I have tried almost all because I have been

a long time fanatic about  peppers. 

 

Thank you! I have placed an order for their Black Peppercorn Sampler Pack.

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Posted (edited)

I have closed down my blog but I copied all the articles I wrote for it and finally found the folder in which I filed them. (I misspelled the title)  here it is.

—Peppercorns from all over the World

PEPPER
I love pepper! And in this note, I refer to “black” pepper or peppercorns that vary in type and are sourced from tropical places around the world.

Many people think (or say) that “pepper is pepper” and really don’t notice the subtle or not so subtle differences between the different types. I notice the difference and know many other people who have the save sensitivity to the varying flavors.

Pepper can be sweet, sour, bitter and of course, aromatic, in addition to the normal “heat” that one senses with the first taste.

Pepper enhances many foods that may not at first seem to be a candidate for peppering.
Try pepper on ripe strawberries. The flavor combination is incredible.
I recently got some of the Australian Mountain Black Pepper and sprinkled it on a strawberry/peach tart. Exceptional flavor and worth the premium price.

I’ve always put pepper on melons because that’s the way I learned as a child. A melon tastes flat without the “bite” of a sprinkle of pepper but with just a dash of pepper, the melon flavor itself is more pronounced and sweeter.
Pineapple is another fruit that marries well with pepper. Same with peaches, nectarines and apricots, and do try it on a mango or papaya. I occasionally find white sapote at the Mexican supermarkets and it is simply incredible when enhanced with freshly ground pepper.
Not so much cherries, plums or apples – although a pinch of pepper in apples being prepared for baking in a pie can add an interesting kick to the apples and the other spices.

In medieval times pepper was used in many desserts, far more than in modern recipes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with it, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

My favorite online vendor is SIR SPICE, FORMERLY PEPPER-PASSION where you can find most of the usual and not-so-usual varieties available; see the link at the end of this section.
In the photo you can see one wooden pepper mill and four battery operated mills. Three are the “Trudeau Elite Graviti Pepper Mills and the smaller one is a MIU Battery Powered Pepper Grinder, which has a slightly smaller holding chamber but operates the same way.
I like these because there is no pepper falling out of the bottom, you tip the mill and it automatically begins grinding when the mill is partially inverted. Very clean and the size of the grind is easily adjusted.

The folks at Pepper-Passion are very nice to deal with and the custom wood pepper mills he makes are truly works of art. I’ve purchased the “Samplers” and the “OmniPacks” both for myself and for gifts and they are great bargains.

Following is a List of Peppercorns I currently have on hand:

Black peppercorns Piper nigrum
These are usually named after the location where they are grown:
These are berries that are picked while still green and they turn black with the process of drying.

Kampot – Cambodia Organic.
Large and shiny peppercorns. Not very hot but these also have what is described as “fruity” flavor and are great in vegetable dishes.

Lampong (AKA Lampung) – Sumatra, Indonesia
Not very hot, does have a “fruity” flavor, especially good with fruits and mild flavored vegetables – exceptional with plantains. Also a smoky fragrance in these small, brown peppercorns.

Madagascar Pepper is one of the largest peppercorns with a faint smoky aroma and flavor that works nicely with hearty meats. Great for grilling steaks on cracked pepper – as soon as the freshly cracked pepper hits the hot skillet, it releases a pungent aroma that causes immediate salivation.

Malabar – India (Southern India) very aromatic, woody, spicy heat.

Pohnpet Organic – Product of Pohnpet, Micronesia
This is an interesting peppercorn, very black, excellent flavor, slightly sweet and with a surprising complexity that makes it perfect for baked goods – Ginger, cardamom and black pepper cookies from Pithy and Cleaver, turned out exceptionally well using this pepper – I used a bit more than listed in the recipe.

Sarawak – Malaysia, Borneo.
Considered to be milder than other peppercorns with less heat. Supposed to have a “fruity” flavor but I really haven’t noticed it.

Talamanka – Ecuador – Rare and going to be rarer as the place it was grown has been turned into a pineapple plantation, according to a bulletin from Pepper-Passion. Too bad, this is a lovely pepper.
This has become one of my favorite all-round peppers. It’s hot, aromatic, spicy with hints of other warm, sweet spices. I use it sparingly because a little goes a long way. Today my lunch consisted of sliced tomatoes from my garden, cottage cheese, chopped fresh basil from the garden and a generous sprinkle of this pepper with sea salt from Bali.

Tellicherry – India, Mount Tellicherry.
a high grade pepper with a “complex, robust flavor”

Vietnamese Pepper – Medium heat with a hint of citrus flavor. These large brown peppercorns are excellent for salads and wonderful in fruit salads or just dusted on fruits and melon.
I prepared a salad with mango and pineapple, generously seasoned with this pepper and the flavor was exceptional. No dressing required.

Wynad Pepper – I recently purchased some Wynad Special Black Pepper from Kerala. The estate is an organic family enterprise and the annual crop is fairly small making this pepper somewhat more expensive than most. The result is worth the price. The flavor is quite pungent with a lot of spicy heat and with a long finish. This is not a pepper to be used generously. A small application to finish a dish and then tasting before adding more is certainly in order.
Judicious use will give one an excellent result.

White peppercorns –
Muntok
These are the same as Piper nigrum but they are the berries that have been allowed to ripen fully on the vine and then harvested. They are packed into containers and soaked in water to loosen the skin then washed and dried. They are naturally white.
I have both Muntok and Sarawak white peppercorns.
These seem to have more heat than regular black pepper and there is none of the other flavors associated with the various types – many of these aromatics are in the skin which has been discarded in the processing.

I was given a small tin of white peppercorns from Africa that was much hotter than the others. I have used it sparingly as I doubt I will ever get more. It has an unusual “piney” aroma, although I don’t taste it in the food.

Green peppercorns – Madagascar
These are the immature berries of Piper nigrum and I have them dried and preserved in brine. I use the whole “wet” ones a lot more than I use the dried, although I have used the dried in soups and stock, and also in pickling fruits where I want a milder flavor than with black peppercorns. The last batch of honeydew melon pickles was made with green peppercorns and I really noticed the difference inflator.
I have some air-dried green peppercorns from India but have yet to open the container. Need to use up the others.

Pink peppercorns (AKA Rose peppercorns) Reunion Island. These aren’t related to Piper nigrum
They aren’t very hot but are rather spicy and sweet. They made a pretty presentation on pale-colored foods and I have been using them in fruit salads and especially salads made with poached chicken breasts.
I recently prepared a Waldorf salad with chicken and seasoned it with the pink peppercorns and it was delicious.

Sichuan or Szechuan peppercorns. These are not a true peppercorn, unrelated to Piper nigrum.
The importation was banned for many years, until 2005, because of a possible citrus plant disease problem. Still, a lot of the pepper came into the country during the banned years but nothing serious ever happened. Now the peppercorns are treated with dry heat to kill off any canker bacteria.
The peppercorns taste best if they are toasted lightly prior to grinding. They have a flavor similar to citrus zest, lemon or grapefruit and are usually not as hot as black pepper. However, there are some strains that are hotter so do taste before you go overboard with this spice.

Comet’s-Tail peppercorns Java Piper Cubeba
This is closely related to the true pepper plant and according to many writers, has been used since the Middle Ages and was more precious than ordinary black pepper. When freshly ground there are several aromas and spicy, citrusy flavors that are quite noticeable and complementary to many foods. It is very good with cooked fruits, compotes, puddings, fresh chutneys, etc. I’ve used it in curry. I also found it to be excellent with a stir-fry in which I used fresh pineapple with sweet peppers and pork.
Some writings and recipes from medieval times mention that the “whole cubeb spice” should be soaked, candied and eaten to “increase warmth in the loins and in the heart.”
Possibly this was the origin of the “red hot” candy…

Long Pepper Piper Longum, which is related to but quite different from Piper nigrum. It is hot and a little goes a long way.
It’s grown in Assam, India and the Long pepper I have came from Sri Lanka and I have seen it offered by one vendor whose source was Singapore.

Long Pepper is an interesting spice and works well with other strong spices, especially in spice mixtures for curry, in cookies and other baked goods, with fruits and melons.  I recently added a small amount to a very rich gingerbread, after reading about how it was used in a similar cake in Medieval and Elizabethan times.  The result was much better than I expected.
It doesn’t fit as is in pepper mills so I use a pet toenail clipper (used only for this and other food-related tasks) to cut it into small bits that will grind nicely in my pepper mills. I prefer the Trudeau Graviti Battery-Operated Pepper Mill as I have arthritis in my hands and have several of these for different peppers.
I’ve also used it in a spice rub for wild game (venison and mountain goat) and it did an excellent job of mitigating the gamey flavor associated with these meats.

Australian Mountain Black Pepper. (AKA Tasmanian Pepper, Dorrigo Pepper) This is a berry, Tasmannia Ianceolata, wildcrafted in Tasmania, dried and processed. It is available in the U.S. from Salt Traders. The first I tried was sent to me from Australia and when it became available I purchased some from them. It has a very unique flavor, sweet, fruity and spicy at first and then fairly hot. Hotter than most black peppers, in heat, it is similar to Long Pepper.
I use it sparingly for direct seasoning because of the heat but it is excellent in stews, a little goes a very long way.

An excellent place to learn more about pepper is on various online sites.
I also recommend going to Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages to get more information on peppercorns and other spices


Edited by andiesenji (log)
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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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On 6/5/2019 at 9:29 AM, weinoo said:

Sometimes I wonder about the freshness of some of their spices.  But all in all, I like the shop a lot, though the prices aren't silly low like they were 10 years ago.

 

Mitch - I had the same concern. However I have since read that they turn over all their spices in 3 months. I have to admit that I have rarely bought anything that seemed old besides some hole-y crumbling bay leaves once (even the cashier seemed taken aback by how they looked - probably a signal I should have noticed).

 

But you do pay for the privilege compared to the neighboring shops. Well, and they also stock a much wider variety of spices.

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Posted (edited)

I bought some voatsiperifery peppercorns weeks ago (says 2018/2019 harvest) off Amazon since these are spoken about in mythic terms by some.   I was really happy with the flavor, so different to standard peppercorns.  I detect a resiny, piney flavor along with a fruity pepper heat.   I  bought them their own grinder and it sits on the counter next to the standard pepper grinder.  Now I'm jazzed to try the rest of the list, I'll probably start with Sir Spice's offerings per andiesenji's blog.


Edited by lemniscate sp (log)

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