Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pepper

Pepper is the dried fruit of a vine, Piper nigrum, that is native to the east Indies and is cultivated in Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Brazil, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka. A pungent spice and a stimulant, pepper has been highly valued for centuries. European demand for pepper was a factor in the 15th century search for ocean routes to the spices growing east. Black pepper is the dried, unripe berry, or peppercorn; white pepper, which has a milder flavor hull has been removed.

Black pepper is produced from the still-green unripe berries of the pepper plant. The berries are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. The heat ruptures cell walls in the pepper, speeding the work of browning enzymes during drying. The berries are dried in the sun or by machine for several days, during which the pepper around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer. Once dried, the spice is called black peppercorn.

White pepper consists of the seed only, with the skin of the pepper removed. This is usually accomplished by process known as retting, where fully ripe peppers are soaked in water for about a week, during which the flesh of the pepper softens and decomposes. Rubbing then removes what remains of the fruit, and the naked seed is dried. Alternative processes are used for removing the outer pepper from the seed, including decortication, the removal of the outer layer from black pepper from small peppers through mechanical, chemical or biological methods

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