Pepper, a spice, has long been a favourite addition to dishes in a wide range of cuisines around the world. Its heat on the tongue, and the strong distinctive flavour, enhances many savoury recipes, and its reputed health benefits make it one of the most commonly used seasonings in the world. To be at its best, pepper needs to be stored in an airtight container and should be kept very dry so that ground pepper remains free flowing and is easy to use. The spice trade was worth enormous amounts of money in the middle ages, and spice wars were fought between rival countries for the rights to grow and trade this valuable and pungent commodity. During the Renaissance the numbers of the middle class sector of society in Europe grew rapidly. They had more money to spend than ever before and a good deal of that was spent on expensive spices that had to be imported from exotic lands, mainly in the Far East. The spice islands of Indonesia were a main supplier and it was not long before several countries were fighting over who should control this very lucrative trade. England, Holland, Portugal and Spain were the main protagonists between the fourteen and sixteen hundreds, and many people lost their lives in the various wars. To indicate the importance of the spice trade to the world economy in those days, a comparison can be drawn with the illegal narcotics trade of today. A shipload of spices safely landed at an English port would make the ship owner and the spice dealers very rich indeed. We now use pepper on an almost daily basis and give little or no thought to where it comes from. Available for culinary use in three main varieties – green, black and white – the peppercorn is the dried berry of the piper plant, and can be easily bought in its ready-ground form for use in a pepper pot.
Types of Pepper Pot
Pepper pots, as they are known in the UK, are referred to as pepper shakers in the US and some other parts of the world. They traditionally form part of a pair with an identical style of salt pot, and the styles of these widespread household items appear limitless. They are usually cylindrical in form with a bewildering array of colours being available, but there are other shapes and various sizes to choose from; there is literally a pepper pot to suit every taste, style and budget. Pepper pots have holes in the top to allow the pepper to be easily shaken out onto food during cooking or after it has been served. In a traditional set of salt and pepper pots – also known as a cruet set – the salt container will have a single hole, whereas the pepper pot will have several. Ground pepper is a lighter, finer substance than salt, and therefore it requires more holes to ensure an even distribution when shaken over food – because salt is heavier, it pours more readily and so only requires a single hole. Sometimes the holes are simply arranged on the lid or top of the pot but with novelty pots the holes may be integrated into the design in some way.
The more traditional chefs or diners may prefer a simple, classic design of pepper pot; available in a wide range of colours and materials, these elegant pots will add a touch of class to any dining table.
Amongst the most familiar shaped pepper pots are the glass and metal, or glass and plastic versions. These are often economical to purchase and have a resilience and sturdiness that will enable them to stand up to everyday wear and tear in even the busiest of households. Easy to use – simply unscrew the top to refill with pepper – and lightweight, these are a functional option for anyone looking to add seasoning to their food at mealtimes. A distinct advantage to a glass pepper pot is the ability to constantly monitor the contents so that diners are never caught without condiments.
The versatility of materials such as stainless steel can be used to make pepper pots in traditional shapes or in more modern designs, and there is a wealth of choice when it comes to antique or classical styled metal pepper pots.
In many cases, pepper pots are not constructed of a single material, with the occasional exception of ceramic – glass and metal are frequently combined to create an item that is both useful and beautiful.
The range of novelty designs in individual pepper pots and cruet sets is huge. Designers have used their imagination to the full, particularly when working on ceramic pots.
The classic designs of traditional pepper pots can also be found in this most versatile of materials, but the flexibility of ceramics lends itself more to the production of novelty pepper pots. The staggering assortment of these items ranges from funky coloured pots, and twists on traditional designs, to deliberately kitsch collectable pots shaped like anything from Elvis Presley to cute kittens and adorable puppies, London buses, ghosts and Space Invaders.
Pepper pots are quite desirable amongst collectors, and the most rare antique pepper pots often fetch good money at auction. Some of the antique Staffordshire pots are particularly attractive and collectable. Basically, as with any antique, the fewer that were made of a particular design and the quality of the material they were made from, plus the standard of any decorative artwork on the piece, will dictate the price. Highly finished and engraved antique silver pepper pots that carry a correct hallmark always demand a good price if certain criteria are met. The level of craftsmanship and the aesthetic appeal of the piece are very important when determining value. A valuable pot should always be presented undamaged, and the hallmarks should be very distinct. The lid on an antique pot should fit snugly, and if there is a hinge it must work correctly. If the lid carries a hallmark, it should match to that on the body of the pot.
Find Pepper Pots on eBay
The eBay home page contains a search box – typing the words pepper pot into this box will take the buyer to the listings pages for all items that meet the search term(s). The panel at the left of the page can then be used to narrow the search to find items that meet the searcher’s specific needs. Alternatively, by clicking on the Home and Garden link in the interactive menu on the home page, a searcher can navigate through the Kitchens category to reach the Food Preparation and Tools category, where a numerous variety of pepper pots will be found. Again, the category list will enable the search to be refined to meet the buyer’s individual needs. Potential purchasers of pepper pots should decide in advance what style or shape they require before starting their search – this will save time, especially if using the easily navigable category menus on eBay. The current market value of any item is worth checking in advance, as it will give a good idea of what one might expect to pay for similar items elsewhere online or in the shops; having this information to hand will aid in making an informed choice and assessing whether an item is in fact worth bidding for.
Whether searching for a pepper pot for everyday use in the family home or for an antique pot desirable to a collector, eBay is almost certain to have something suitable for auction. Searching for a classic, vintage-style glass pot, or a pot shaped like Captain Kirk? The huge choice of pepper pots available on eBay makes it the ideal place to start looking.