I am not a food snob, but, if the only pepper you’ve ever used is the pre-ground stuff, your taste buds will thank you once they’ve tried the freshly ground stuff. The outer shell of the peppercorn seals in the pungent bite of its flavor. Freshly grinding your peppercorn cracks the outer shell and releases the flavor. Once the peppercorn is ground, the sharpness of its bite starts to decay within an hour or two. So, if you’re going to be seasoning a dish with freshly ground pepper, wait until the last possible moment to add it.
Pepper comes from the berries of the Piper nigrum plant. Black, red, white and green peppercorns are actually the same fruit; they’re just harvested at different points in the ripening process and processed differently. The most commonly used pepper in the US is the black peppercorn. Black peppercorns are picked when they are just about to turn red. They are dried (they shrivel up and become dark) and either sold whole or ground. Green peppercorns are picked while still unripe and green. White peppercorns are picked when the berry is ripe and then soaked in a brine to remove the dark outer shell. Pink peppercorns, on the other hand are not actually peppers but the taste is close enough that they are lumped into the pepper category.
So, bottom line, some recipes call for cracking pepper, others call for grinding – which is better? The answer is neither is better, it’s a matter of taste. Grinding produces a finer powdery consistency and cracking is a coarser consistency. So much depends on what you’re making and on what type of grinder you’re using. In the world of fresh ground pepper, the following semi-accurate equivalents should give you approximate measurements:
1/8 teaspoon = 4 to 5 rotations
1/4 teaspoon = 8 to 10 rotations
1/2 teaspoon = 19 to 22 rotations
1 teaspoon = 35 to 40 rotations
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.