May 7, 2010

Black or White

In 1991, Michael Jackson (RIP, King of Pop) preached to us all that “it don’t matter if you’re black or white.” Amen to that.

But what if we apply this statement to the kitchen.  Does it hold true when it comes to pepper? And more importantly, what is the difference between black and white varieties? Let’s explore.

Pepper comes from ground peppercorns, which are the dried berry of the viney, pepper plant.  Much like bell peppers, the color of the berry depends on its maturity.  Black peppercorns are picked when the berry is still unripe (and green) and then dried until it shrinks and darkens. White peppercorns, however, are left to mature on the vine and soaked so the outer shell can be easily removed. Black pepper tends to have a sharp aroma and flavor, while white pepper is hotter, perhaps a bit more bitter (like mustard), and mildly fermented.  White pepper is used mostly in light colored sauces, soups, and mashed potatoes where the spice should blend in with the other ingredients. Like culinary camouflage.

So when passing on the salt shaker, don’t skimp on the pepper. You have white, black, and even pink varieties to chose from, all with their own nuances.  And to give you a little extra inspiration, check out this video. I totally forgot about the awesome McCaulay Culkin guest appearance in the beginning. Not gonna lie – I’ve watched it twice.

Chow on.

Stefan Kalscheid May 12, 2010 at 2:32 am

I always wonder how some people will say that there´s no difference between black and white pepper. Personally I prefer freshly grounded black pepper most of the time but there are some recepies which scream for white pepper. One such guilty pleasure is my recipe for Spaghetti with a gorgonzola sauce. The white pepper really adds something special to this dish. Green pepper is different again – I have to admit that I hardly ever use it. Have you ever tried long pepper, though? Very interesting taste. Oh, and the pink pepper really isn´t really pepper – It´s not from the same plant as the green, white and black one.

sodium girl May 12, 2010 at 9:43 am

I didn’t realize that about pink pepper (and I will have to edit my post!) Also, where do you pick up long pepper? I’m intrigued. Thank you for the great advice, Stefan!

Stefan Kalscheid May 18, 2010 at 12:35 am

I first saw and bought it in Basel (Switzerland) last year and later saw it at “Schuhbecks Gewürzladen” in Munich. It´s not common but I´m sure you´ll find it in speciality stores. There are long and short versions of the seeds, apparently from male and female plants.

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