Black pepper is produced from the still-green unripe drupes of the pepper plant with so many culinary purposes; black pepper has long been a cherished spice. In ancient Greece, pepper was held in such high regard it was not only used as a seasoning, but as a currency and sacred offering to the gods. By the 15th century, pepper became so important that it spurred spice trade and inspired Spanish exploration that led to the discovery of the New World.
Black pepper is available whole, cracked (crushed) or ground. While ground is fine as a quick counter condiment, pepper’s best flavor comes to play when you buy whole peppercorns and crack or grind them yourself just before adding to recipes. Whole peppercorns should be heavy, compact and free of blemishes.
Store in an airtight glass container in a cool, dark, dry place. While whole peppercorns will keep almost indefinitely, ground pepper will only stay fresh for about three months.