Sweet on Peppercorns
February 06th 2019
Maybe it’s the influx of new Canadians or the millennial preoccupation with trying new things. Either way, spice is bigger than ever in our kitchens and on our menus. We’re especially enjoying our heat mixed with other flavours, especially sweet ingredients.
Spicy ingredients continue to appeal to large numbers of Canadians. However, we’re seeing an ongoing shift happening from simple heat to more complex, layered flavour profiles. For example, the combo of sweet and spicy is the third-most popular flavour mix in Canada according to a 2017 Technomic survey. It also enjoys nearly equal popularity among men and women.
Popularly known as ‘sweet-with-heat’, one of the progenitors of the profile is Thai-style sweet chili. Sweet and spicy blends are a great way to make the great flavours of spicy ingredients accessible to consumers who aren’t interested in sweat-inducing hot sauces.
Over time, the flavour profile has evolved to include varied and sophisticated ingredients, elevating the combo from mere condiment to a true flavour experience. Let’s look at the many varieties of peppers available, and then turn to exciting, naturally sweet counterparts you might not have ever considered for your sweet-with-heat flavour solution.
Types of Peppercorns
The most common of all peppercorns, they are, ironically, green when they’re picked from the plant. When they’re cleaned in hot water, the cellular walls rupture, causing them to brown enzymatically.
On the VERY off chance you’ve never tried it, black pepper is moderately hot and strongly aromatic.
These are exactly the same as black peppercorns; they’re picked before they’re ripe when they’re still green buds on the plant. Because of the way they’re treated after harvesting, they retain their green colour rather than turn into the more familiar black.
Green peppercorns are aromatic, but not pungent, and have a fresh taste.
Made from fully mature red berries, white peppers are the seeds that remain after the skin is removed. This usually requires about a week of soaking in water, followed by drying the seeds.
While white pepper won’t add much aroma, they do bring a pleasantly creamy flavour and pronounced heat.
Not commonly seen, red peppercorns are fully ripened berries that have been preserved in some manner to preserve their colour.
Red peppercorns boast a complex and pleasant aroma is complex and significant heat.
Pink / Rose
These pretty ‘peppers’ are not true peppers at all. Harvested from native South American trees, they’re actually relatives of cashews.
Their flavour is not unlike black pepper but milder and more acidic, with an appealing hint of sweetness.
Like pink peppers, these are also not true peppers. Rather, they’re dried berries from the Prickly Ash tree, a species native to China.
Famous from the flavourful cuisine of their namesake region, Szechuan peppers are highly aromatic with a citrusy taste that leaves the lips tingly and slightly numb.
Types of Sweet Ingredients
Consumers are reluctant to give up their collective sweet tooth, but they’re also more health-conscious than ever. The secret to consumer-friendly sweet-with-heat lies with using sweet ingredients perceived as more natural and hence ‘better for you’ than traditional sugar. Here are some suggestions from the McCormick culinary experts.
Comparable to kiwis in texture, dragon fruit is native to Central and South America, but is now widely cultivated in Asia, as well. Sweet and crunchy, if you can imagine a flavour that's like a cross between kiwi and pear, then you’ve got an idea what a wonderful and appealing flavour dragon fruit offers.
An emerging ingredient in the West, jackfruit is a large fruit (think football-sized) native to South and Southeast Asia, where it is very popular. It is easily identified by its striking green, spiny exterior and yellow (or white when unripe), interior.
A ripe jackfruit tastes like a combination of banana and pineapple, with a pleasant texture that may be either chewy or juicy.
Intriguingly, unripe jackfruit is increasingly finding use as a substitute for meat thanks to a mild flavour and stringy, pull-apart texture.
This beautiful tuber is a purple yam native to Southeast Asia that’s related to the sweet potato. The flavour is mildly sweet, but the vibrant colour makes it an attention-grabber for everything from desserts to sides to smoothies.
One of the first sweeteners discovered by humankind, this thick liquid crafted by bees from flower nectar needs no introduction. Honey is not only delicious, but it’s also perfectly aligned with increased consumer interest in alternative, natural sugar substitutes.
During his expedition to the World Barbecue Championships in Memphis, McCormick Canada’s Executive Chef, Juriaan Snellen, noted a surge in the use of hot honey, particularly in chicken recipes.
Talk about ticking all the boxes! Popular in Mexican cooking, which never seems to lose popularity among Canadian consumers, piloncillo is dried, unrefined cane sugar, meaning it’s as close to its natural state as it can be.
Ranging in colour from light brown to deep mahogany, it tastes and functions much like brown sugar, but with a more substantial flavour.
A cereal grain is not the first place most of us would think to look for an alternative sweetener. But, that’s exactly where sorghum syrup comes from - the juice of sweet sorghum stalks.
Thanks to its association with Southern cuisine, it’s experiencing renewed interests among creative chefs and adventurous mixologists.
Discover the next level sweet with heat
Our culinary development team has created two new flavour profiles inspired by the surging interest in sweet and spicy foods.
Dragon Fruit and Strawberry Poke with Pepper Syrup
Pepper’s tongue-tingling boldness is tempered by naturally sweet dragon fruit in this creative take on poke. Serve fresh strawberry and diced dragon fruit salad (mock poke) atop a dollop of peppered whipped cream and crispy wonton triangles. Drizzle with a balsamic-pepper syrup for an assertive spice sensation that’s here to stay.
Pulled Jackfruit Tacos
Authentic vegetarian tacos become reality with canned jackfruit. This large tropical fruit is deceptively meat-like in texture, with a sweet, impressionable flavour. It takes on a warm, smoky taco taste in this recipe. Grill it. Shred it. And pile it into tortillas to be topped with onion, cilantro, sour cream and the upfront heat of a Cider Pepper Syrup.
What will your sweet-with-heat custom flavour solution look and taste like? Contact us today to get started down the road of flavour discovery!