Magic is twisting a pepper mill, hearing its familiar crunch, and smelling that fleeting, piney aroma. For many, that alchemy emanates from our premium Tellicherry black peppercorns. These peppercorns are a staple in nearly every kitchen, but the everyday is often more exceptional than it seems.
What Is Black Pepper?
Black pepper is a dried fruit that grows on a tropical vine, known scientifically as piper nigrum. This perennial plant is native to the southwestern region of India known as the Malabar coast. Pepper vines grow as tall as 30 feet high, with lush foliage that produces clusters of green berries. These berries take roughly seven months to develop before ripening to an orangish red color.
The blushing clusters signal it’s time for harvest, ready to be hand-picked and sun-dried. The dried peppercorns are sifted from their stems and sorted by size before they are sold to spice vendors. Black pepper is now cultivated across the world’s tropics, but some of the best pepper still comes from India.
Why Are Tellicherry Peppercorns Special?
Tellicherry peppercorns are India’s highest grade of black pepper. Freshly ground, they taste distinctly piney and peppery with supporting flavors that are citrusy, fruity, pungent, woodsy, and herby. Their heat is also milder than other varieties of black peppercorn, opening up your palate to its nuance.
Only the largest, most mature peppercorns qualify for Tellicherry status. These larger berries spend the most time on the vine, absorbing extra nutrients, and taking on the most complex flavors. This quality grading is named after the historic port city of Thalassery. (Tellicherry is the anglicized version of Thalassery.)
True Tellicherry peppercorns are grown within the surrounding state of Kerala India. These prized peppercorns are often sourced from farms higher up in the fertile and mineral-rich slopes of the western range of the Ghat mountains. Special growing conditions and a strict sorting process yield a peppercorn of exceptional flavor and aroma. Within the spice business, you’ll encounter this variety labeled as Tellicherry Garbled Special Extra Bold.
Many pepper farmers around the globe falsely label their black pepper as Tellicherry to cash in on its reputation. Terroir is important when purchasing spices, which is why we proudly source the highest quality Tellicherry peppercorns from Kerala India.
Cooking With Tellicherry Peppercorns
Black pepper is essential both within the kitchen and at the dining table. The best-tasting pepper is always ground fresh. We love using our CrushGrind Pepper Mill for its sleek look and adjustable grind size. For a richer, nuttier flavor, try lightly toasting whole peppercorns before grinding them at home. For your convenience, we also offer freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper in varying coarseness. To preserve pepper’s complexity, we only grind it in small batch sizes.
While black pepper is regarded as the king of spices, you’ll find it can mingle with just about any flavor. It is especially good friends with garlic, onion, bay leaf, basil, thyme, nutmeg, and lemon. For a more authentic Indian flavor profile, pair black pepper with cumin, coriander, ginger, mustard, fennel, and fenugreek–delicious for seasoning grilled chicken or stewed veggies.
Black pepper is an immediate choice for savory recipes. What’s a steak without black pepper? Some of our favorite uses are cracking it over mac ‘n cheese, sprinkling it into creamy salad dressings, or dropping whole peppercorns into a tangy pickle brine.
Pepper also plays well with the sweeter side of things. It’s surprisingly tasty with freshly cut fruit, particularly strawberries and cherries. You can even grind pepper over a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a sophisticated treat. You can also put a pinch of black pepper in an apple pie. It pairs beautifully with cinnamon and vanilla. If you have a favorite way to cook with black pepper, tell us about it below.
Article by Geoff Marshall, Staff Writer