Do you know the difference between good old, every-day Black Pepper and its more-exotic cousin, White Pepper? Have you ever used White Pepper in your cooking? If not, you’ve been missing out on one of life’s simple culinary pleasures! Behold the mystery and magic of White Pepper…
The most commonly used Pepper Corns… All but the Red are the same berry
from the same plant – just picked and dried differently.
The difference between Black Pepper and While Pepper? If you already know, then you know that was a trick question! Black pepper is the berry of the Pepper Plant, picked when almost rips and sun-dried. White pepper is the same berry, but with the outer, black husk removed before sun-drying.
Now, if you grind up Black Pepper Corns, you get fragments of the black husk in the mix. That’s fine for dark foods like red Meat and Greens and even southern style Sausage Gravy. But it’s a little coarse for foods such as Chicken, Fish and most White Sauces. One of my believed Chef-instructors at Culinary School insisted that, if you used Black Pepper on light coloured foods, people would think there was dirt in it! I laughed. He just smirked back; like he know I had another think coming. And the more I cook for other people, as a caterer, the more I understand his position. It just doesn’t look nice. And it seems… well… uncultured. As a result, the more I cook, the more I use White Pepper. In fact, I use about three times as much of it in a given week than I do Black Pepper.
But there are other differences…
I prefer White Pepper because it has a purer, more consistent flavour. You can’t really detect it in most dishes – unless you really overdose on it, whether by accident or on purpose.
Also, White pepper does cost a little more than Black pepper. But not that much more. The slight premium is worth it!
What does Pepper do?
Contrary to popular belief, pepper is not used to make foods ‘hot’. Unless it’s that distant cousin, like Chinese Szechwan Pepper. Common Black/White pepper is primarily used as a seasoning, not as a spice. What the heck do I mean by that? A seasoning is not meant to be tasted directly by the diner. It’s supposed to have a brightening, energizing effect on your taste buds, which amplifies and enhances your enjoyment of the meal. Salt and Pepper are the two most-used seasonings in the world! There are other seasonings; one is monosodium glutamate (MSG), very popular with Asian cooks. But it’s also extremely high in sodium and a significant number of people are allergic to it, to some degree or another. If you’re really, really into this ‘seasonings’ thing, Wikipedia has a very detained rundown here.
What about Sezchwan Pepper and other colours of Pepper?
Szechewan Pepper and most other colours of Pepper Corns are actually the fruit of different plants, some not even in the same family as Black/White Pepper. The exception is the Green pepper Corn. it’s the same berry from the same plant as Black/White pepper, just picked un-ripe and dried. All the Pepper Corns have their own unique flavours and uses. Unlike Common Pepper, they are used mainly as spices and are, generally, meant to be tasted by the diner.
So… Go ahead and season your foods properly, with a generous by deft hand. And see how much flavour your recipes can really unleash!
~ Maggie J.