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Peppercorns, bitchez!

500 grams of Rye Spice Co’s finest Piper nigrum. This is what chemical dependency looks like, folks.

It takes me a couple of years to blast through one of these babies. This will be the third I’ve bought since I moved here. (FYI, the first was around £5, the second was £6-something, and this one was £8-something). My favorite peppermill was actually sold in a Turkish shop as a coffee mill — one of those cylindrical brass things — and it makes the coarsest pepper I’ve ever seen.

Pepper all the things!


Comment from Uncle Al
Time: February 5, 2015, 11:37 pm

I love, Love, LOVE black pepper! I note that the label on that jar doesn’t bother to tell you what kind of pepper is inside. It is probably Tellicherry, which is pretty good stuff. I respectfully and enthusiastically suggest that you track down and try Lampong (or Lampung) black peppercorns. They are more aromatic and a bit spicier. They come from Sumatra in Indonesia, while Tellicherry are from India (as are Malabar peppercorns). About ten years ago there was a pepper farm in Peru of all places, and their product was SPECTACULAR. Alas, they found that they could make more money per acre and manhour growing other crops and so their terrific stuff is no longer available, and any existing stocks have aged well past peak flavor.

About peppermills – it is very nice to have one that produces good grinds all the way from very fine to very coarse. There aren’t many that will do that. The French Pougeot mills are good from fine to medium, and German Zassenhaus are good from medium-fine to coarse. Shun any mill whose working parts are anything other than good steel. Aluminum (aluminium for those in the UK) suxxxxxx and will go dull overnight. If you find one mill that does it all, please let us/me know!

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: February 5, 2015, 11:59 pm

It always amuses me to watch television “chefs” make two or three grinds of pepper over a dish. What!?

I don’t have good luck buying peppermills, so I will look into your recommendations Uncle Al.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 6, 2015, 12:24 am

Have you ever seen such blatant begging for a product endorsement deal in your lives?

Comment from Armybrat
Time: February 6, 2015, 1:04 am

I don’t care for pepper. It tastes bitter to me. I’ve read this is a genetic thing…like those who like cilantro and those who do not. For the record, cilantro tastes like soap to me. My husband, a chef, keeps multiple varieties of pepper, each in its dedicated grinder. He LOVES pepper and like Uncle Al, positively swoons over different peppers.

Comment from Spad13
Time: February 6, 2015, 1:49 am

Ah, a weasel after my own heart. Nothing better than fresh ground pepper on musk melon/ cantaloupe. Also cottage cheese.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 6, 2015, 2:06 am

Another Fresh Ground black pepper addict here. I get mine from Penzey’s Spices. I also prefer the Tellicherry peppercorns, along with Uncle Al.

One of the great moments of my culinary career was when I made some simple scrambled eggs with olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper for a Japanese visitor who demanded to know what the spice was on the eggs. When I told her it was simple black pepper, she refused to believe it at first – she had never tasted fresh ground black pepper before; she’d only had the ash-in-a-can stuff. When she returned to Japan, she took some Tellicherry peppercorns and a peppermill with her to amaze her friends.

Speaking of Peppermills, the one you want is a Perfex Crank Pepper Mill . My dad bought me one 20 years ago? (My God! More than 20 years ago! :-0) and I am still using it every day. It’s not elegant enough to put on the table to impress your friends, but it’s great in the kitchen, and you really can adjust the grind. I am kind of shocked at the price now – I remember it being expensive, but wow. Still, by the year, it’s working out to be pretty cheap and I have never had to fiddle with it even once.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: February 6, 2015, 3:12 am

@Some veg – I do like Tellicherry but I would lie to my mother for Lampong pepper. Thanks for reminding me about the Perfex mill! It has been ages since I have used one and didn’t realize that these terrific mills were still available. $100 seems like a lot of money until you realize that you could be using it daily for decades.

I start to feel sorry for those whose genes get in the way of enjoying pepper but then think about things others enjoy that I just don’t get. I guess things balance out in the end.

Comment from Nina
Time: February 6, 2015, 3:22 am

You sound like my daughter. I’ll put pepper on food while cooking, but I don’t miss it if I don’t.

Salt, on the other hand…

AB, this is not the first time I’ve suspected we are sisters. 🙂

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 6, 2015, 3:45 am

The search for some Lampong Pepper is on!

Thanks, Uncle Al!

Comment from mojo
Time: February 6, 2015, 5:48 am

Could be worse. You could be a saffron junkie… 28 dollars for 5 grams.

Comment from mojo
Time: February 6, 2015, 5:56 am

Hey, what about white pepper? Or pink, for that matter. Racists!

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: February 6, 2015, 6:48 am

Is it true, that in the pepper bogs in the mountains of Sumatra, that the Lampung peppers are individually paw picked by Giant Rats, before being loaded aboard the MATILDA BRIGGS, for shipping to market?

Comment from Stark Diskflüssig
Time: February 6, 2015, 8:04 am

My wife makes a paste of raspberry preserves, black pepper, & cayenne pepper. I use quite a bit of black pepper when cooking meat, & a little here & there otherwise. We would go through that jar in about that time, yes.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: February 6, 2015, 8:12 am

@SCOTTtheBADGER – Actually, it is civet cats that pick the peppercorns from the pepperbushes. The cats eat the peppercorns along with the nearby coffee beans. The giant rats come into the picture in Phase II by paw picking through the civet cat feces to separate the pepper from the coffee.

Comment from mojo
Time: February 6, 2015, 9:32 am

I had some of that cat-crap coffee once. Not too bad, if you like that sort of thing. I just thought it was overly expensive.

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: February 6, 2015, 10:13 am

I shall try this fresh ground pepper thing. Y’all make it sound very enticing.

Comment from Anonymous
Time: February 6, 2015, 12:56 pm

Why settle for a piddly little 4 1/2″ mill when you can get its 7 1/2″ big brother for only slightly more:

I presume that the “sturdy aluminum” they are so proud of is the body casting, and that the burr grinder is made of a somewhat harder material…

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 6, 2015, 4:01 pm

“Comment from mojo
Time: February 6, 2015, 9:32 am
I had some of that cat-crap coffee once. Not too bad, if you like that sort of thing. I just thought it was overly expensive.”

Expensive? Huh. Well, YOU try feeding coffee beans to a cat.

Comment from A Prendergast
Time: February 6, 2015, 4:12 pm

`I speak severely to my boy,
I beat him when he sneezes;
For he can thoroughly enjoy
The pepper when he pleases!’
`Wow! wow! wow!’

‘There’s certainly too much pepper in that soup!’ Alice said to herself, as well as she could for sneezing.

Clearly Alice was mistaken…..

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: February 6, 2015, 4:20 pm

I had some of that cat-crap coffee once.

Cat crap coffee to the tune of that Nugent song.

Comment from Bikeboy
Time: February 6, 2015, 4:20 pm

I enjoy the pepper, but I’m not an aficionado.

By contrast, the daughter is a gourmet cook with gourmet book-learnin’. (Dangerous!) But she’s also budget-conscious. She swears by COSTCO (!) Kirkland Signature Whole Telicherry Peppercorns. A 14oz. jar is available on the Amazon for $12.50.

Comment from Anonymous
Time: February 6, 2015, 5:44 pm

Some Veg – We also get our Tellicherry Extra Bold from Penzeys, about a pound per year, and have been using the Zassenhaus grinder they sell for 20 years now. Uncle B is right, the thing does coarse really well. And that’s where we leave it.

Lampong pepper was a snap to find. $12/lb.


Comment from BJM
Time: February 6, 2015, 6:42 pm

@Stoaty: A couple of years?! The Spousal Unit and I blast through a jar that size in about three months.

@some veg: We have a Peugeot crank grinder with a drawer that is prolly 30 yrs old and still going strong…I use it like a salt pig when I’m cooking.

We also have an Italian cylinder grinder we bought in Italy years ago that we use on the table (like this but ours is stainless and wasn’t nearly that costly). The SU especially likes it because it’s chunky and fits a manly grip.

@spad13…Yes! Cantaloup and/or cottage cheese without black pepper is unthinkable. btw- We like to put a scoop of small curd cottage cheese in half a chilled cantaloup…two birds so to speak.

For those who grow their own…there’s a disease resistant, hybrid cantaloup variety, “Oui”, in the French Charentais style, that produces the most fragrant melons that are perfect with cottage cheese or vanilla ice cream. You can find the seeds at many online seed purveyors/Amazon. Is anyone else itching to start seeds?

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: February 6, 2015, 8:39 pm

BJM—Oh yes. Wednesday I bought seed packets of dill, garlic chives, and basil. And Husband gave me a (thornless) Mexican Lime tree for my birthday. So now I have a Meyer Lemon, a Mr.Mac Satsuma, and now the lime—which is the small thin skinned lime greatly desired in Gin & Tonics 😉

They are living on my sunny sun porch/greenhouse for now, waiting for the temps to come up.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 6, 2015, 9:22 pm

I envy you your temperatures, Deborah (well, my plants do, I’m not a hot weather badger).

My lemons and lime are shivering in the frost-free (in other words, barely heated) greenhouse, flowering well enough and with baby fruits but they’d like it warmer.

They would also love a treatment for scale insect that doesn’t make the fruit risky to eat. Whenever I’ve grown citrus it’s always scale that has been the death of them.

Any suggestions?

Comment from ed
Time: February 6, 2015, 9:33 pm

cacio e pepe



Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 6, 2015, 10:10 pm

BJM, it takes me longer because Uncle B doesn’t exactly share my love of the stuff.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: February 6, 2015, 10:10 pm

Dang, Uncle Badger. I was going to ask YOU for advice. This is all new for me. I will have to read up on scale, and I guess I better start now so I will be ready. Well—I just went out to examine the trees more closely. No signs of scale but I did find a snail on the lime. Horrors!

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 6, 2015, 11:24 pm

Ugh! Oh well… Every citrus plant I’ve ever had has suffered from scale and it’s a devil to get rid of. We’re quite restricted over here in the range of pesticides we can use due to, um, hippies, I think.

Then again, even I’m a bit careful about what I eat, so I’d rather not use anything too noxious.

Comment from Spad13
Time: February 7, 2015, 12:49 am

BJM thanks for the tip on cottage cheese with the melon. I will certainly try it this summer.

Comment from mojo
Time: February 7, 2015, 8:51 am

Then there’s the Braveheart impersonator that’s complaining about women tourists checking him for tighty whities

I love Scotland.

Comment from mojo
Time: February 7, 2015, 10:27 am

The things you learn on Wikipedia…

“Black peppercorns were found stuffed in the nostrils of Ramesses II, placed there as part of the mummification rituals shortly after his death in 1213 BCE”

Comment from BJM
Time: February 7, 2015, 7:38 pm

@Uncle Badger:

Have you checked the pot for ants? Ants are usually responsible for a scale infestation (they feed on the sticky waste the scale exudes).

Your first step is to make a bucket of soapy water and take a soft cloth and wash the plant all over with soapy solution getting rid of the scale and the ants. Just keep drowning them in the bucket. Take time and get every one of them off. Best soap to use is a fatty acid made for landscape use, your local nursery will have safe insecticidal soaps, in the US we have a product called Safer Soap, but any pure castile soap will do mixed with water at 2%…do not use dishwashing liquid.

Once you kill off the scale and ants a very cool preventative trick, if you can get it, is to use dry worm castings as a mulch, ants will not cross worm castings as it kills them. You can also get a safe, sticky barrier to paint on the trunk…it’s called Tanglefoot here..or paint the trunk with a lime based whitewash.

Organic gardeners traditionally use a lime-based whitewash made from hydrated lime, water and oil. Hydrated lime (also known as slake or builder’s lime) is readily available from hardware stores and building suppliers. It’s very caustic, so be sure to follow the safety directions on the pack. When handling, avoid contact with skin and eyes and avoid breathing the dust (wear suitable gloves and eye/face protection).

Adding oil helps the whitewash to stick. Linseed oil is the traditional choice, or you can use an eco-safe horticultural oil. Here’s the “recipe” my Gran taught me:

Step 1 – Pour 500ml of water into a bucket.
Step 2 – Add 224g of hydrated lime.
Step 3 – Pour in 5ml of oil.
Step 4 – Mix together and add more water or lime until you have a smooth slurry similar to the consistency of house paint.
Step 5 – Slop it on the trunk and woody lower branches (not the green twiggy branches) thickly with a paint brush. It rinses off your clothes and surrounds easily.

That’s it…ants and other creepy crawlers will avoid it…be sure to keep Jack away until the whitewash dries. I use it after pruning and it helps fruit trees heal without exposing them to canker.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 8, 2015, 12:20 am

Now that was very illuminating, BJM, thank you!

I have used insecticidal soap (it’s popular over here, too) and I have attacked ants whenever I think they are around as I knew they fed on their excretions. But a lime barrier was new to me and both The Weasel and I are fascinated to learn worm castings kill ants. Do you happen to know how?

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: February 8, 2015, 2:52 am

BJM—oh wow oh wow. This is such wonderful information. I know zip about gardening, but this is a great place to begin. My little trees thank you, and so do I.

Comment from BJM
Time: February 9, 2015, 7:56 pm

@Uncle Badger: Worm castings contain an enzyme called chitinase. Insects avoid chitinase because it dissolves chitin, the main ingredient in their exoskeletons. Ants will not walk across worm castings. Also plants treated with worm castings take up the chitinase making it unpalatable to chewing/sucking insects.

Here’s a brief article from the SF Chronicle.

Of course the official nanny state Ag dept’s opinion is that it doesn’t work, but it really does. If you have ant hills just spread worm castings over them and the ants depart post haste.

Comment from BJM
Time: February 9, 2015, 8:05 pm

Reply split to avoid the dread spam filter:

Re the lime whitewash; I was raised in California’s Central Valley and back in the day the Valley’s vast orchards of fruit and nut trees were painted with a lime solution…the orchards looked very snappy with their rows of white trunks. Now they use a kaolin clay mixture and of course an alphabet soup of chemical pest controls.

The whitewash also protects against bark splitting and sunscald caused by low winter temps and summer sunlight on deciduous trees…but do not use it on quince or pear trees which are very sensitive to lime. Also check the ph of the soil under the trees…lime neutralizes acidic soils, but shouldn’t be used on alkaline soils.

BTW-Gran also used a lime whitewash made with salt (no oil) to paint the interior of her chicken coop.

We recently retired to a small property and I’m about to take on a chicken coop…so I’ll be um, badgering Stoaty about chicken husbandry.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 10, 2015, 12:27 am

Thank you, BJM – that was very useful and extremely interesting!

Of course, worms tend not to last too long with me around, so I always keep an eye open for casts…

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