Types of Pepper and How to Use Them
Pepper is the third most used cooking ingredient in the world, falling behind only water and salt. In fact, black pepper is co common these days, it might be hard to believe it was once so valuable, it was used in place of coins.
But what you may not know is there are several types of pepper available today. Each comes not only in ground form, but also cracked or whole.
And each has it’s own special uses.
Where Pepper Comes From
Shakable black pepper, as is found on nearly every American table, comes from peppercorns. Peppercorns are the berries of Piper nigrum, a vine originally discovered on coast of India but now grown in several locations around the world. These peppercorns are considered the oldest spice ever used.
Types of Pepper
The most widely recognized pepper and the most commonly used in the United States. It has the strongest scent and flavor of any type of pepper. To create this ground spice, the berries of Piper nigrum are picked before they fully ripen, then they are dried.
Darker, larger, and have a more complex taste than common black peppercorns.
Green peppercorns which are tart in flavor, are Piper nigrum berries picked when nowhere near ripe.
Preferred in Europe; these are made from fully mature berries whose husks are removed before drying. Removing the husks results in a lightly colored pepper.
Rare and are made from fully mature berries, which are removed still attached to the vine. The resulting pepper is much more mellow than black pepper.
The rarest type of pepper. They are made by preserving red peppercorns in brine. Because the brine softens the peppercorns, they cannot be ground and are added into recipes whole.
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How to Use Pepper
For the best flavor, purchase whole peppercorns and grind them yourself with a peppermill.
Add the freshly ground pepper at the end of the cooking process to get the most peppery taste.
To increase the flavor of peppercorns further, freeze them before grinding.
Whole peppercorns are great additions to a bouquet garni (a bunch of herbs, usually wrapped up in cheese cloth and stuck inside a pot of stew, stock, soup, or when poaching meats). They are also useful for pickling.
White peppercorns are often used for light colored dishes, like white sauces, creamy soups, poultry, and fish. However, you can use black and white pepper interchangeably.
Pink peppercorns are often added to salads and egg dishes.
Store peppercorns in an air tight container in a cool, dry, dark location. Whole peppercorns stored in this manner will last many years, while ground pepper lasts only a few months before loosing its flavor.
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