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Peposo - Peppery Tuscan Beef Stew - qb cucina

Peposo Junipero: Peppery Tuscan Beef Stew with Juniper Berries

I distinctly remember the first time I tried peposo, a pepper meat stew typical of Tuscany.

I was visiting some friends in Siena for the weekend and a local friend of theirs insisted that we go to an osteria outside of town for dinner, followed by dancing at a nearby night club. (I’m not all that into nightclubs or dancing, but the dinner at a typical osteria alone was enough to lure me into saying yes.)

That night, we dined on the osteria’s house specialties: extra-thick pici al cacio e pepe and wild boar peposo, washed down with the house Sangiovese, served in carafes for the table.

While we savored the meal, our host for the evening told me more about peposo. The name, he said, comes from the Italian word pepe, meaning “black pepper,” because the stew uses a generous amount of whole peppercorns (and as you might have guessed, peposo means “peppery”). But he also disclosed to me that this particular peposo was unique because the osteria added juniper berries in addition to the traditional whole black peppercorns.

Juniper berries! How fascinating, I thought. It was at the moment that I realized how much I love the scent and flavor of juniper.

Nowadays, there are many variations on peposo. Modern recipes often use tomatoes or a soffritto—a mixture of finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots sauteed in oil or butter. However traditional peposo recipes stick to these few ingredients: beef or wild boar, peppercorns, garlic, wine, and salt. Herbs, like rosemary and bay leaves, are sometimes added too.

Here I have tried to recreate that fragrant, peppery peposo with juniper berries that I had enjoyed years ago at an osteria on the outskirts of Siena.

Warning: The smell of peposo cooking is tantalizing, but do not rush the process. Allow the stew to cook slowly in order to fully develop its flavors.

Peposo Junipero: Tuscan Beef Stew with Juniper Berries

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 pounds beef for stew
1 head of garlic
¾ ounce whole peppercorns
3-4 juniper berries
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 bottle of red wine, preferably Chianti or Sangiovese
Sea salt

Method

In a large clay pot or dutch oven, arrange the beef and garlic. Sprinkle with salt, whole peppercorns, and juniper berries. Add rosemary and bay leaves.

Pour the wine over the beef.

Cover the pot and cook, slowly, in the oven for about 5 hours, until the wine has reduced into a thick sauce and the beef is flaky and tender. If the sauce is too thin, remove the cover towards the end of the cooking to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.

Serve with thick Tuscan-style bread, sauteed greens, or white beans. Although not traditionally Tuscan, peposo is also fantastic served with roasted or mashed potatoes, or creamy polenta.

Peposo Junipero: Peppery Tuscan Beef Stew with Juniper Berries

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 300 Minutes
Total time: 5 Hour 10 Minutes
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beef for stew
  • 1 head of garlic
  • ¾ ounce whole peppercorns
  • 3-4 juniper berries
  • 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bottle of red wine, preferably Chianti or sangiovese
  • Sea salt, q.b.

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. In a large clay pot or dutch oven, arrange the beef and garlic. Sprinkle with salt, whole peppercorns, and juniper berries. Add rosemary and bay leaves.
3. Pour the wine over the beef.
4. Cover the pot and cook, slowly, in the oven for about 5 hours, until the wine has reduced into a thick sauce and the beef is flaky and tender. If the sauce is too thin, remove the cover towards the end of the cooking to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
5. Serve with thick Tuscan-style bread, sauteed greens, or white beans. Although not traditionally Tuscan, peposo is also fantastic served with roasted or mashed potatoes, or creamy polenta.
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