Like discoveries in other experimental fields, the ones that happen in the kitchen are often rooted in mistakes. When way too many black peppercorns got dumped into hot oil for a pre-bean-fry, it seemed they were lost. What to do with a pile of soggy, greasy peppercorns?
We got to thinking about pepper and what it is: the aged berries from a spice tree originating in Indonesia. Black peppercorns are actually sun-cured green peppercorns, and white ones are just black peppercorns that have been soaked, skinned and dried again.
While we didn't follow through with the initial idea to make our own white pepper, we figured we could redry the soggy dudes in a low oven to revive them. The result ruled: The pepper reabsorbed the tasty oil and intensified its new and improved flavor. Ever vigilant for ways to put liquor we love back into the food we eat, we postulated that we could do the same with Bourbon, Mescal and just about any other type of liquor.
When they've dried completely, they’ll look exactly as they did before you subjected them to a whiskey bath.
The result is the same; you can elevate the contents of your pepper mill to dizzying heights. You’ll also make your house smell like a distillery for an hour or two. But this technique can give soups, salads, fresh cheeses and eggs that hair-of-the-dog flavor you've been missing.
Liquor'd Black Pepper
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
1 shot booze
1) Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and lightly toast the pepper for 3 to 5 minutes.
2) Dump in your shot of booze. We've had great success with Bourbon and Mescal, but use whatever you like. The liquor should begin cooking off immediately, but you don't want it to burn, so turn the heat as low as you can to keep the liquid bubbling.
3) When the liquid is completely evaporated and absorbed, turn off the heat. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the peppercorns out evenly.
4) Bake in a low oven, around 250 F, for 30 minutes. You want the pepper to be completely dry. During the infusion process the peppercorns swell with liquid. When they've dried completely, they’ll look exactly as they did before you subjected them to a whiskey bath. Let the pepper cool and find something to put them on.