Let’s jump into the wonderful world of WHITE PEPPERCORNS! The cousin of what we know as black peppercorns, is actually the black peppercorn without its outer skin. We’ll dive into that distinction later. This particular ground white pepper hails from Vietnam and is sold ground – perfect for finishing a soup our sauce, or any dish really. These wonderful peppers hail from Vietnam. The country has a long rich history of growing some of the finest peppers in the world.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty on what makes a white peppercorn so special. It consists solely of the seed of the ripe fruit. White pepper is made from fully ripe pepper berries. The darker outer skin of the berries is removed by soaking the berries in water for about a week – so that the skin softens and decomposes. It’s that very soaking process that gives the White Peppercorns their distinct earthy perfume. Then their skins are removed, which also removes some of the hot piperine compound, as well as volatile oils and compounds that give black pepper its aroma. As a result, white pepper has a different flavor and heat component than black pepper. The process used and handling of white pepper can introduce different flavor notes as well.
The flavor itself is very complex. Upon first smelling, you’re in store for cheesy earthy notes – maybe even a hint of “something gone bad” – but don’t worry! That’s all part of the layers. The flavor is distinctly earthy and musty with notes of fermented vegetables, aged cheddar, barks and roots. White pepper has a hot taste on the tongue, although sources differ on whether it is hotter or milder than black pepper. For example, Cook's Illustrated says it's milder, while others say it has a sharper bite. Sources agree that white pepper is less complex in flavor than black pepper. It can have a musty, earthy, or grassy flavor, which can vary depending on the type of processing used and handling after production. Some also note nuances of citrus. So many different layers!
Ground White Peppercorns are incredibly versatile! Because they’re more mild and lighter in color than typical black peppercorns, they can be used in a myriad of ways. They would be perfect sprinkled over a freshly constructed lobster roll or perhaps a lobster bisque if it’s a chilly winter’s night. Ground White Peppercorns would be lovely in a salad of butter lettuce, crisp spring radishes, and strawberry – don’t forget the champagne vinaigrette. Their cheesy funk pairs perfectly with cheese based dishes like grilled cheese, mac and cheese, and fondue. While black peppercorn is typically too intense for delicate seafood preparations, the earthy complexity of Ground White Peppercorns makes any seafood dish sing! Add it to poached halibut or a creamy clam chowder.