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A Little Spice to Your Cream

by Sheridan Lane, director, culinary program and operations, Lincoln Land Community College

What do peaches, pecans, plums and peppercorns all have in common – besides, of course, that they all being with the letter “p”? They are all part of the family of fruits referred to as drupes. Drupes are characterized by their single hard seed or pit in the center. The peppercorn is the seed inside small clusters of tiny fruit. According to a recent article in Food and Wine Magazine (March 2023),

“Pepper was once expensive, rare and incredibly in-demand, so highly prized that in 410 A.D., Visigoths demanded 3,000 pounds of black pepper as part of their ransom for the city of Rome, which fascinated whole civilizations across Europe and Asia. Pepper powered the economies of entire nations. It was one of the driving forces of a spice trade that led to the oppressive system of European colonialism and its lingering historical consequences for huge swaths of humanity.”

In recent history, black pepper has continued to increase in popularity, and according to Global Market Insights, the black peppercorn market is projected to have continued growth to over 3.25 million U.S. dollars by 2027. 

Peppercorns grow on vines in tropical climates from South America to East Asia and come in very diverse flavors. Black, white and green peppercorns are from the same plant and only differ in the way in which they are harvested or dried. Black peppercorns are the strongest in flavor of the three but are harvested green, then boiled and finally dried, while green peppercorns are harvested early in maturity and then are usually freeze dried. White peppercorns are allowed to grow on the vine until they reach full maturity and then soaked until the fruit softens or falls off before being set to dry. On the other hand, Sichuan peppercorns and pink peppercorns are not peppercorns at all but are the dried berries of different plant species. The pink peppercorn comes from a particular varietal of rose and delivers a lighter, more fruit/floral flavor making them very fun to use in sweet desserts. This Easter, try a scoop of this pink “peppercorn” ice cream alongside your carrot cake and wow your guests not only with this creative new flavor but also with your knowledge of peppercorns and dried berries mistakenly called peppercorns!

Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream

Adapted from "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz (10 Speed Pres, 2007)

Makes 2 cups

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon pink peppercorns, coarsely cracked using a knife to roughly chop them.
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks
  1. Warm the milk, peppercorns, salt and 1/2 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan to roughly 150 degrees. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour. Then strain in a fine mesh strainer.
  2. Once strained, pour the remaining 1/2 cup cream into the mixture and rewarm to 150 degrees again. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy and then slowly pour the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly until thoroughly combines. Return the combined mixture back to the saucepan and stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Transfer the mixture to a large shallow dish so that it can cool thoroughly in the refrigerator.  Finally, freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.


Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management and Baking/Pastry, and non-credit cooking and food classes through LLCC Community Education.

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