Friday, July 19, 2013

The Long History of Long Pepper.

The article which formed the basis for yesterday’s post mentioned ‘long pepper,’ and I indicated that I would feature it today. No other ideas pushed it out of my consciousness, so long pepper it is in this post.

Long Pepper (Piper longum) is closely related to the more familiar Piper nigrum, from which we obtain the familiar black, white, and green peppercorns. Long pepper is native to India and Indonesia, and this is reflected in some of its alternative names - Balinese pepper, Javanese pepper, Indian long pepper, Bengal pepper, Thippili, and no doubt numerous other names which have not come across my path. The catkin-like fruits of the vine bear tiny seeds which are the source of the complex, pungent flavour.

Long pepper was highly prized in ancient times for both its medicinal and culinary uses, but was eclipsed by black pepper when this became cheaper and more easily available. Its virtual death-knell in European cuisine was assured by the opening up of the New World and the increasing familiarity of chili pepper, and it is now little used outside its natural homelands.

If you are able to source some long pepper, here are some ideas from the first decades of the nineteenth century, when it was still quite popular.

To Pickle Radish-Pods.
Gather the radish-pods when they are quite young, and put them into salt and water all night; then boil the salt and water, and pour it over the pods in jars, and cover them closely to keep in the steam. When the brine is cold, boil it, and pour it hot upon the pods again, repeating the process until they are green; then put them in a sieve to drain, and make a pickle for them of white-wine vinegar, mace, ginger, long pepper and horseradish: pour it boiling hot upon the pods, and, when nearly cold, boil it again and pour it over them. When cold, tie down the jars.
A New System of Domestic Cookery (1808) by Maria Rundell.

Bouillon Maigre pour les Potages de la Table. Meagre Broth for Soups.
Scald all sorts of roots, as onions, parsley roots, carrots, parsneps, half a savoy, turnips, leeks, and celsry; boil all together in peas broth, as directed above; put it into a clean bag called a minionette,* with a small quantity of long pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, mace, a clove of garlick, shallots, and winter savory; boil till the greens are done; and, to give it a good colour, make a brown gravy with sliced onions, and other roots, and butter; when it yields a proper colour, as in all cullis, salt it according to taste, and mix it together. It will serve you to make what soups you please.
The Professed Cook (1812) by B. Clermont

Third Way – Troisième Manière [to make Vinegar]
For very strong vinegar put into a cask of wine thirty pods of ripe long pepper, which ought to be of a fine red, and a quarter of a pound of ginger; leave it fifteen days, then draw out the pepper, which has been suspended by a thread in the cask on purpose, and the bag of ginger; dry them that they may be in readiness to be used again for the same purpose. —Note this attention.
The Art of French Cookery (1827) by Antoine Beauvilliers.

Hippocras (red).
Pour a gallon of claret into an earthen pan, put to it a blade of mace, some long pepper, four grains of white pepper, a drachm of cinnamon, and a little coriander-seed (all bruised separately); add two pounds of powder sugar, and a dozen sweet almonds pounded.

The Cook's Dictionary and House-keeper's Directory (1830) by Richard Dolby.


Deana Sidney said...

I love long pepper and use it in my special pepper mix (with cubeb, grains of paradise and tellicherry) that I have been making for a zillion years.
They are very perfumy and delicious. Too bad they fell out of fashion.

Anonymous said...

What's a radish-pod?

Mercy said...

Here in Germany, you can buy it in the larger grocery stores (or in the specialized spice stores). I was actually surprised how easy it was to find when I bought it last summer.

Emma Cooper said...

@Anonymous - if you let radish plants flower, they then form seed pods that are edible when young. They're crunchy and spicy, although the flavour and heat depends a bit on the radish variety. There's even a variety (the rat's tail radish) bred for its pods rather than its roots.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Emma - it is good to get some advice from an expert! I had no idea that some were bred particularly for the pods!I wonder if they were cooked in any other way, or just pickled?

The InTolerant Chef ™ said...

You can order long pepper from Herbies online or at his shop in Sydney, I got some last month and it's lovely.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Intolerant Chef! I was going to look into Aussie sources - now you have saved me the trouble!