Pepperpot is a Guyanese dish traditionally made at Christmas. It is the holiday dish that sits and warms on the stove continuously because, at any time of the day, you could get a craving for pepperpot. As a child, we ate it at breakfast time; it was all a part of the ceremony of opening gifts, but as an adult, I would literally eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I could.
In this post, we walk you through what pepperpot is, its origins, and, of course, what wine best pairs with it.
What is Pepperpot
Pepperpot is a Guyanese one-pot stew served at Christmas and eaten with homemade bread. You simply rip a piece of homemade bread, dip it in your bowl of pepperpot to soak the bread in the sauce, and then have the bread envelope a piece of meat, which you then drive into your mouth. Describing this is making my mouth water! Some eat pepperpot with rice and, therefore, use utensils, but my preferred way is to eat it with my fingers.
At the heart of pepperpot lies a diverse array of ingredients that harmonize to create a truly mouth watering experience. The dish features meat, such as oxtail, cow heel, and cuts of stewing beef. The meat is slow cooked in a sauce flavoured heavily by cassareep which is made cassava and is aromatic, sweet, spicy, and bitter all at once.
The History and Origins of Pepperpot
The story told to me by my ancestors is that pepperpot was a Native Guyanese dish by origin. Once it was discovered that cassareep could act as a preservative, it was clear using it to cook meats and create dishes that would have longer staying power, especially in times when there was some uncertainty about the next hunt or the next meal, was sustainably innovative.
What Wine Pairs with Pepperpot
Once people hear about the meat used in pepperpot, they immediately think it must be paired with red wine because of the beef. But, like with many stews, the item you need to pair flavours with is the sauce which, in our case, is heavily driven from the flavours of cassareep: sweet, savoury, and bitter.
When we set out to pair pepperpot with wine, we used a barely off-dry white wine, a sparkling rosé, two light bodied red wines, one saw oak whereas the other did not, and finally, a big bodied red wine that saw some oak treatment, and here's what happened.
Off-dry White Wine: this pairing was pleasant but nothing wowing. The wine had great acidity, which helped with the cuts of meat, but it neither complimented nor supported the cassareep, it just was.
Sparkling Rosé: this was a case where the wine lacked a depth of flavour to stand up to the dish, and as a result, the wine started to taste bad as we did the pairing. This was a definite no.
Light Bodied Red Wine: the red berries were dominant, but the pairing was not balanced. The dish did the wine no justice, and vice versa.
Light Bodied Red Wine with Oak Treatment: like the wine above, the red berries danced on the palate, but unlike the wine above, it was supported by nutmeg, chocolate and vegetal notes. The oak treatment, combined with the grape's natural fortitude, started to bring out the often unspoken ingredients in pepperpot, such as cinnamon and clove. Each bite and sip uncovered something new on the palate.
Full Bodied Red Wine with Oak Treatment: the full bodied wine performed best with this dish when chilled to 17 degrees celsius. The berries became crunchier with new characteristics. The oak also built congruent moments on the palate, but the pairing experience stopped there with no new flavour discoveries.
That Light Bodied Red Wine with Oak Treatment produced the most significant wow factor on the palate. The experience was layered and both wine, and dish benefited from the pairing. It being lighter in body gave the pairing a purity that did not have to worry about astringency in the wine along with the dish. The subtle new oak treatment also worked wonders in building that congruent feel on the palate.
If you are interested in trying this at home and are looking for a pepperpot recipe to follow, check out our friend at Metemgee!