The 10 Best Pepper Mills
Pepper -- What Is It Good For?
Believe it or not, pepper boasts an amazing range of beneficial properties. From the intestines to the epidermis, it does a body good.
You've probably heard that black pepper clears your sinuses. How does it achieve this? By irritating membranes until your mucus thins and starts to run. But it also helps encourage sweating and even, I'll say it...urination. Consequently, black pepper works wonders for a cold sprinkled into hot soup, or even herbal tea.
A recent study shows pepper can help fight off breast cancer, actually acting to stop the development of tumors. Adding turmeric to pepper enhances the cancer-fighting effect, making the two a veritable dynamic duo of anti-carcinogenic activity.
Body skin a bit dull? A dash of pepper added to a home body scrub boosts circulation and helps scrub away dead cells. The end result? Smoother, buffed body skin. A home body scrub is a terrific treat during winter months when lack of sunlight can discourage cell turnover.
The upshot? Pepper is good for a lot more than adding piquant flavor to your plate.
Cars and Peppermills: The Little-Known Connection
It may not surprise you to learn that France, with its rich gastronomic history, is where the peppermill was invented. What might be a shock is discovering that the Peugeot family -- yes, they of car-making fame -- originated the culinary must-have and still churns out (sorry!) peppermills today.
It all started back in 1810 when the Peugeot brothers were wondering what to do with the family flour mill, (flour was plentiful, and could not promise much in the way of profits.) Brothers Jean-Pierre and Jean-Frederic settled on milling steel, from which they began to manufacture tools, watch, and clock mechanisms. (They even produced the wire structures that under-girded crinolines, as well as stays for corsets!) It didn't take long for the brothers to gain a solid reputation for quality tool and blade making.
In 1840, they took their reputation a step further, developing a coffee mill with a unique, double-rowed system of helix-shaped teeth. The technology was later adapted to the peppermill. The first row of teeth cracks the corn in half, while the second completes the grinding process. A knob atop the mill determines whether the grind is fine or coarse.
Chefs worldwide hail the Peugeot mill as practically indestructible. The Peugeot mill -- widely imitated but never duplicated -- actually comes with a lifetime guarantee.
But where did the automobile come in? In 1905, two Peugeot cousins headed the firm. One was in love with cars -- and the other wasn't. The company then split into two. And the peppermill-making side was actually forbidden from venturing into producing household goods. Interestingly, though, the same Peugeot lion adorns both the cars and the kitchen tool. Did family pride remain intact despite the split? Perhaps, as a mere five years later, the two companies were reunited.
Dried and True: The Peppercorn Navigator
To the non-discriminating, it may seem that all types of pepper taste alike. But just as there are connoisseurs of fresh peppers - jalapeno, habanero, chiles, and more -- there are folks who would never confuse a green peppercorn with a black one. Since we're in the business of sounding like experts, we've rounded up definitions of flavor profile and details of processing to distinguish one type of peppercorn from the next.
Let's start with the basics: Peppercorns grow in clusters on vines, much like grapes. Differences enter in as to the type of berry, when the berries are picked, and how they are processed.
Black peppercorns may be the best-known, and are certainly the most common at retail stores. In the U.S., Peppercorns turn black when they are left on the vine until full maturity. As with grapes and olives, the more mature berries offer a more complex flavor profile. The connoisseur may be able to discern whether corns originated in India, Indonesia or elsewhere. The rest of us just know the familiar spice perks up soups, stews, meats and veggies.
White peppercorns - much like white rice -- are just mature black peppercorns with the outer hull taken off. Oddly, the hull removal and soaking process lend white pepper a more intense flavor than its black counterpart. If black pepper strains your tolerance for spice, white pepper might really be too much for you. White pepper is often used in white or light-colored sauces, such as Bearnaise, to preserve the blond look, if you will. But if a milder flavor is more your style, stick with black or green.
Green peppercorns are actually picked early. Thus, the green color and less intense flavor. Some cooks prefer green corns for fish and vegetables.
Pink corns -- which appear as red to the uninitiated-- are not peppercorns at all. They are berries that offer a slightly sweet flavor.
The fun part comes in combining the flavors of two or more of these types of corns. Add white and black in varied proportions to your grinder, and test out the results. Since you can find scores of products of each pepper color from a range of origins and producers, the possibilities are endless. Of course, you can find pre-packaged combos of, for instance, green, black and red corns, on many a retail shelf.