Black Pepper

Black pepper is my favorite spice, but it’s possible to make it even better.  Instead of using the pre-ground powder, it’s best to buy whole peppercorns and grind them as needed.  However, you’ll need to toast the peppercorns before you can grind them — toss them in the oven or do it on the stove-top on high heat, whichever is most convenient.  No need to put anything else in the pan — just pepper.  They’re done when they smell delicious and are starting to jump around a bit.

You can grind them with a mortar and pestle (found at your local World Market and under $20 — highly useful) or with an old coffee grinder.  Just do a small amount at a time because ground pepper starts to lose its flavor after a couple weeks, hence the joy of grinding it yourself.

You can also buy a pre-loaded pepper grinder at the grocery store, which is better than using the pre-ground stuff, but doing it yourself is so, so worthwhile.  I can’t use enough enthusiasm or even religious fervor when encouraging you to try it.