I don’t think there is a spice more versatile than pepper. Whether it’s being ground over your pasta by an overzealous waiter or served in a sauce on a steak, its title of the “king of spices” is deserved.
It’s easy to get lost in the sheer number of varieties. Most of the peppercorns you can buy (black, green and white) are actually from the same tree, picked at different times and then dried or prepared differently to produce a number of different flavour profiles. Pink peppercorns are not actually peppercorns at all, rather berries, and Sichuan is a different beast altogether.
We have a philosophy of not putting dozens of ingredients into our spices, rather letting the flavours shine through. So when we were creating the mixes for Moonshine BBQ, we wanted to do more than just add the black pepper that most rubs use. So we set out to experiment and develop a signature mix for red meat, and also one for poultry and fish.
The reason we looked at two different mixes is due to both flavour, but also colour. With white flesh such as fish and chicken, to see it speckled with dark flecks of ground pepper is not so appealing. But what about pork, you ask? Our pork rub also contains paprika, which will naturally give the meat a dark appearance when cooked (like this great pork shoulder one of our customers sent us a photo of).
Building the flavours of our red meat pepper mix, we wanted to make sure we included black pepper. When the peppercorns are dried out and the moisture content reduced, so it is quite punchy with a fair degree of heat (have you ever bit down on one caught in your back teeth?).
Green peppercorns are much fresher with a similar heat than the black pepper, mostly due to the fact the enzyme that turns them black is killed off during the treatment so they keep the colour, but the same bite.
White pepper also adds fire with a slightly less freshness in the flavour, as it is the same peppercorn with the black outer removed (which is why ground black pepper appears grey) – basically a seed.
So with all of these considered, we tried a number of different ratios of each to produce a mix we believe is balanced in heat and flavour.
We also added Sichuan early on in our recipe testing, adding an incredible zing in the process. It’s best used in moderation, so we’re saving it’s inclusion for a special mix in the future.
What about you? What’s your favourite pepper?