Sunday, November 4, 2007
You've all seen it in recipes. The ingredient list doesn't say "ground pepper", it says "freshly ground pepper". Sometimes the word "freshly" is even italicized as if to convince you of the supreme importance of getting out your pepper mill. So, is fresh grinding really necessary? No. It's not. There are some cases when fresh ground pepper is better tasting or desirable in some other way, but it is never necessary. Cases in point: 1) I think fresh pepper tastes better when it is on anything raw (salad) or barely cooked (when added to a sauce at the very last second before serving). This is because I like the bite of the freshly released pepper oils. I also like the texture of larger pepper corn pieces. 2) When grilling, larger pieces of pepper are desirable so you have a more scattered placement of pepper on you item (steak, eggplant slice, etc) than you could achieve with fine ground pepper. There are other similar instances, but when something is simmering for a while or the other flavors in your dish are going to out-shout the pepper, the benefits of fresh grinding are lost on me. When you've gotten home from work at 6 pm or later and you need a half a teaspoon of pepper for your three bean chili, the only thing freshly grinding it will do for you is put more time between you and dinner. We have a very functional pepper mill that lives on our stove, but we also have a nice jar of coarsely ground black pepper in the spice rack on the counter. I refill them at about the same rate, and our dinners don't seem to have suffered any ill effects.