Posted by: internationalroutier | February 23, 2010

Forgotten Foods- Long Pepper

The Reverend instructs us on the wonders of the almost lost long pepper. We used it in our 17thC period brewing experiments prior to the 07 Con and have since successfully used the leftovers in a few dishes prepared on camp. The moral of the tale is not to substitute with chilli willy nilly.

Long pepper (Piper retrofractum), a native of Java, is a much misunderstood spice commonly used in seventeenth century cooking, brewing and medicine. Long pepper has a warm, musky flavour, somewhat warmer than black pepper. The considerably more expensive Piper longu from southern India had been in use from ancient times until the sixteenth century when it was displaced by cheaper regular supply from Java by the various East India Companies.

After the development of the colonies in America, a third “long pepper”, the chili, was introduced to Europe. Chili has a markedly different taste but introduced a similar amount of “heat” to food. Propagating easily and able to grow most places, it displaced Javan long pepper in the seventeenth century, dropping the price to 8% of that of black pepper and causing to the collapse of the market. It is this Restoration substitution that leads many historical cooks to assume the two are similar and chili therefore is a reasonable substitute for long pepper. They’re getting the heat but missing the flavour.

Long Pepper is available from Herbies who describe the aroma as “sweet, fragrant and musk-like and the flavour is similarly musky and peppery”.
Brewing recipes using long pepper are here

Further reading:
Hyman, P. & M. Long Pepper: A Short History, published in The Wilder Shores of Gastronomy (2002), By Alan Davidson, Helen Saberi here

Dalby, A., Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices, University of California Press here



  1. Mrs Reverend had quite a bit of involvement in the writing of this post.

  2. Oooh – food p**n 🙂

    Very interesting!

    (Now what was that article I promised to write whilst under the influence on Saturday?)

  3. I do think it was so… have found a couple of recent (2006 & 2008) scholarly references. A good reason to become a borrower at Blue Mountains Public Library (Blaxland Branch).

    Support your local Public Library!

  4. Long Pepper is very nice on clackers with smoked salmon and cream cheese…try some today!

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