Kitchen Essentials – Peppercorns
Black, white, red or green, peppercorns are the berry clusters of the Piper Nigrum plant, an evergreen climbing vine found throughout India’s Malabar Coast. Prized over the centuries as a valuable commodity, there probably isn’t a pantry today that doesn’t hold a jar of pepper.
Apart from colour, peppercorns differ in flavour, too. White pepper is somewhat more aromatic than the others. Described as having less heat than black pepper, it’s typically used in light coloured dishes, such as Vichyssoise. White peppercorns are actually the fully ripe berries that have been picked just before turning red. The berry clusters are soaked in water, which softens the outer coating until it can be easily removed leaving just the gray centres. The peppercorns are then dried in the sun or by machine until they’re bleached white.
Black peppercorns are picked when they’re still slightly under ripe. Then, they’re fermented and dried. Black pepper has a bite, and is probably the most popular of all the peppercorns available.
Green peppercorns are harvested when the berry is at its most immature. It’s then packed in brine, resulting in a fresher, less piquant flavour. Not just for savoury dishes, pepper is used in sweets, too . Grind pepper as you need it because the flavour dissipates very quickly.