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May 19, 2008 07:44 PM

Cracking Peppercorns: What's your best method?

Just got a whole new array of good peppercorns, and want to do some nice cracked pepper exteriors.

Up till now, I've use the spice grinder to pulse a bit, then seived the results thru two mesh gauges of strainers, with some fines left over to be reground.

What's a good way to crack the corns into chunks of 3 to 4 pieces per corn?

(The old old song comes to mind: "Jimmy crack corn , and I DO care....")

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  1. I use a steep-sided wooden mortar bowl and bulb-headed pestle from Cajamaca, Peru. Important is that the head of the pestle is relatively large, filling about a third of the mortar bowl's bottom surface area. You can easily control fineness of grind, from cracked to fine..

    ... an' the massas gone away!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      Is it a porous pumice type that would grip those rolling rascals as I crack their balls, or a smooth marble type? Been thinking about getting hold of a metate, but present tools seem to fill its use.

      "I crack 16 tons and what do I get..."

      1. re: FoodFuser

        ... a little bit older and deeper in debt
        I owe my soul to the company sto'

        Again, wooden mortar and pestle for spices. Porous pumice for grindinig up a lot of wet stuff

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          I missed the "wooden" on your first reply. Options enlarge immediately as the mind roams from the kitchen to the workshop with scraps of hardwood and lathe. The wood will grip just right, in the marble mortar. The surikogi is too wimpy...Give it enough mass and it will also be usable on impenetrable teenage noggins.

          "Rock of Ages... cleft for me... Peppercorns... too big for me..."

      1. re: dano

        This is how I do it, but I have learned to put the peppercorns inside of a much larger pan, or throw a side towel over the top sauté' to stop them from flying all over the kitchen as you crush them.

        A burr grinder works well, but you need to clean it VERY throughly if you use it for coffee, as Tellicherry coffee tastes lousy at 6 Am.

      2. my round meat pounder, with a piece of paper over the corns. The paper is the unwaxed paper used for wrapping food...fold the paper, one hit, not so hard then pour the pepper corn into a container.

        6 Replies
        1. re: chef chicklet

          So, the face hitting the corns is rounded, not flat? Are the cracked corn pieces pretty regular, or randomly mixed sizes?

          1. re: FoodFuser

            The meat pounder is like a giant coin with a handle attached protruding from the middle of one of the sides. The surface is flat.

            1. re: FoodFuser

              well that pretty much depends on my mood~
              I use the cutting board, no they are pretty regular. I had broken my pepper grinder, I'm pretty good at it.
              Exactly Sam you described it.
              FF,You know those pounders with the handle that sticks up, you can completely control the pressure. You can actually just rock it back and forth.

            2. re: chef chicklet

              I put the peppercorns in a ziplock bag, then pound with the side of the meat pounder.

              1. re: MMRuth

                In Manhattan? When I left home I was left without a mortar and pestle, so I found that using the bottom of a pan to crack at the pepper was the best, but I've been reluctant to do that now that I live in an apartment where neighbors can hear your every footstep.

                1. re: JungMann

                  Indeed! But we're on the top floor of a brownstone that is pretty sound proof, fortunately.

            3. gotta add one more song: I'm a Pepper, he's a Pepper, She's a Pepper, we're a Pepper, Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?

              I use my regular pepper mill and just loosen the setting until the pieces are big enough for the job at hand.

              1. heavy stone thai mortar and pestle