Originally published April 12, 1984
Over 3,000 years ago references to pepper were made in India, in ancient Sanskrit medical literature. Most European names for pepper are derived from the Sanskrit pip-pali, a word used to describe long pepper.
During the fourth century B.C. the philosopher-botanist Theophrastus described two kinds of pepper, the long and the black. Pliny, in the first century A.D. reported that long pepper was worth 15 denarii (Roman gold coins), while black pepper cost 4 denarii. Long pepper (from northern India) was known before black pepper (from southern India) in the Greco-Roman era, and for several centuries was regarded as being of superior quality to black pepper.
In the Middle Ages rents, dowries and taxes were frequently paid in pepper, and some European landlords preferred to receive their rental payments in the form of scarce, high-priced peppercorns rather than money. Today the term “peppercorn rent” means something nominal or trivial, but in medieval times peppercorns were choice legal tender, eagerly sought after by the wealthier classes, since supplies were not always available.
The Kitchen Mouse uses quite a bit of pepper every year. Although most of the pepper we use is black, we also maintain a fresh supply of white pepper for some recipes.
The Kitchen Mouse observes that both black and white pepper are widely used in the foods of almost every nation on earth. They are available whole, cracked, coarsely ground, medium ground or finely ground and may be used in almost all foods except those with a sweet flavor. Whole peppercorns are spicy additions to meats, soups, fish and pickles. Ground pepper (white or black) is especially popular in eggs, salads, meats, soups, sauces, gravies and vegetables. The tanginess of pepper provides welcome relief in low-salt diets.
Steak au Poivre Recipe
English Pepper Pasties Recipe
Pepper Meat Balls Recipe