PENZEYS® WHOLE PEPPERCORNS
By Correen Coultas
I remember getting my first spice rack as a newly wedded woman. It had about 16 different spices and herbs, including pepper. Back then I didn’t know anything about spices. I just knew that my grandmothers and mother put spices in foods to make the foods tastier. Like many people before me, when the spice rack got low, I would get a “refill” from the grocery store. Pepper seemed to be a spice that I ran out of quite often and some I never even used. And being the thrifty person that I am, I discovered that the dollar store sold bottles of spices twice as large as my spice rack bottles and cheaper than the grocery store. What a deal! Or so I thought. I soon discovered that those “refills” were not very tasty, didn’t stay fresh very long (if they were even fresh to begin with) and really weren’t the bargain that I thought they were.
In an effort to be a better cook I began watching cooking shows. I learned how to use all kinds of herbs and spices, fresh, dried and ground. The one thing that stands out in my mind about those shows is that everyone seemed to have a peppermill and when they came to “pepper” in a recipe, the lingo was “freshly ground black pepper”. I thought pepper was pepper. Boy was I wrong. I didn’t know it could be purchased as whole peppercorns, that it could be different colors and have different tastes.
I had no clue about what form of pepper to choose, and I knew even less about peppermills (that is another review!). So I did my research. I found out where pepper comes from, how it is processed, how to use it in cooking and some very interesting historical tidbits too. (Did you know that the black and green peppercorns come from the same plant and they are just processed differently or that CocaCola® uses pepper spirit as an ingredient?) Now I felt that I could make a responsible and educated decision about my purchase.
Of all my purchases I decided that I liked Penzeys® whole peppercorns the best. I settled on 4 of their several kinds, all being from India: Tellicherry, Malabar, Green and Special Extra Bold. All 4 kinds bring a sharp, lingering heat, but I found that I like the flavor of the peppercorns best when I mix all four and use a coarse grind. I especially like the flavor on eggs or in omelets and in salads, especially if strawberries are one of the ingredients. Using freshly ground black pepper now makes me feel like I use the “black gold” of the ancient Asians and I like to share the wealth.
I did find a coarsely ground black pepper (restaurant style) in a jar at the grocery store not long ago and I bought it because it looked good. I figured that it looked so much like the freshly ground pepper that it probably tasted the same without the manual labor. When I first opened the jar, the smell was fragrant and promising, but it didn’t take long before the flavor and aroma all but disappeared. I guess the cooking show chefs knew what they were talking about when they insisted on that “freshly ground pepper”. I am a believer!
Penzeys® offers several varieties of peppercorns so I am sure you will find something that you will enjoy. The price range is about $3.55 to about $35.00 (on the higher end of the price range if you choose the rarer French pink peppercorns). The peppercorns come in jars or bags ranging from ¼ cup to 1 pound (1 to 16 ounces). Store peppercorns in airtight containers out of the sun. The Penzeys® website gives good information about their peppercorns and pepper blends so your purchase can fit your cooking needs.
I am not being compensated by this company for this review. It is my own opinion ~ Correen Coultas