Also Known as
Kali mirch powder, Kali miri powder
Black pepper comes from the pepper plant, a smooth woody vine that can grow up to 33 feet in hot and humid tropical climates. They begin to bear small white clustered flowers after 3 to 4 years and develop into berries known as peppercorns. Ground peppercorns produce the spice we call pepper. Black pepper, green pepper and white peppercorns are actually the same fruit (Piper nigrum); the difference in their colour is a reflection of varying stages of development and processing methods.
Black peppercorns are made by picking the pepper berries when they are half ripe and just about to turn red. They are then left to dry, which causes them to shrivel and become dark in colour. Black pepper is the most pungent and flavourful of all types of peppers and it is available as whole or cracked peppercorns, or ground into powder.
Freshly ground black pepper is perhaps the most popular of its forms of consumption, and it is a common sight to see spice mills filled with pepper on many a dining table. It has a better flavour and aroma compared to readymade pepper powders. Crushed pepper is great for sprinkling over salads, soups, sandwiches or even a cup of tea. It not only adds to the flavour but also helps kindle one’s appetite, and helps soothe a disturbed respiratory tract too!
How to select
• To make freshly ground black pepper, choose heavy, company and blemish-free peppercorns.
• Before filling the pepper into a mill, sort it to remove stones or other debris that might be present.
• Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing black pepper try to select that which is organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated (among other potential adverse effects, irradiating black pepper may lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C content).
• Keep a pepper mill readily filled at the table, so you can add freshly ground pepper to myriad dishes like soups, salads and sandwiches as and when needed.
• Always add freshly ground pepper at the end of the cooking process as heating it for too long will lead to loss of flavour.
• Coat skewed paneer with crushed peppercorns before cooking for a special peppery taste.
• Make a delicious salad dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper powder.
How to store
• Black pepper should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place.
• Whole peppercorns will keep almost indefinitely, while ground pepper will stay fresh for about three months.
• Pepper can also be frozen although this will make its flavour more pronounced.
• Black pepper stimulates the taste buds in such a way that an alert is sent to the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid secretion, thereby improving digestion. Hence, adding a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper to your foods not only adds to the flavour but improves digestion as well.
• Black pepper has long been recognized as a carminative (a substance that helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas), a property likely due to its beneficial effect of stimulating hydrochloric acid production. In addition, black pepper has diaphoretic (promotes sweating), and diuretic (promotes urination) properties.
• Black pepper has also demonstrated impressive antioxidant properties.
• It is also an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of iron and vitamin K, and a good source of dietary fibre.