Types of Pepper

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Peppercorns are the fruit of a flowering vine plant that grows in tropical regions.
Peppercorns are the fruit of a flowering vine plant that grows in tropical regions.

Side-by-side spice shakers appear on kitchen countertops and dining room tables in most American homes. People routinely season their dishes with a dash of salt and pepper at every meal; for decades, this simple spice duo has brightened and enhanced the flavor of just about any food or dish. Finely ground, black Tellicherry peppercorn is the typical choice for seasoning individual servings at mealtime; however, pepper comes in several varieties and blends. Learn about different types of peppercorns to experiment in the kitchen and at the table.

  1. Black

    • Black peppercorns are most commonly used as a general spice in cooking and eating. The two most popular varieties are the Tellicherry and Malabar peppercorns, both of which are grown in the tropical, coastal regions of India. Black peppercorn berries are left on the vine until almost fully ripened, then picked and sun-dried, resulting in the strongest and most pungent aroma, taste and heat of all the peppercorn varieties. It is available both pre-ground, in a fine powder form, or whole, for fresh cracking. Fresh, coarsely ground black peppercorn has the strongest flavor, smell and spice.


    • White peppercorn, while rarely used in American households, is the pepper variety of choice for most Europeans. Though not as potent as black peppercorn, white pepper also has a strong flavor that tends to linger in the mouth longer than black pepper. Black and white peppercorns are the same berry; the only difference is that for white peppercorns, the mature berries are picked, washed and the outer husks are removed before drying. The removal of the outer berry husk is what gives white pepper its light color.


    • Pink peppercorns are the rarest and most expensive of all peppercorn varieties. Fully ripened, red peppercorn berries are picked and then preserved in a special brine solution. Unlike other peppercorn varieties, pink peppercorns are not dried and thus do not harden. They are soft with a delicate, sweet pepper flavor and are usually used whole in fruit sauces, egg dishes, salads and other recipes.


    • Like black, white and pink pepper, green peppercorn is derived from the same peppercorn berry. But unlike the other peppercorn varieties, green peppercorns are picked unripe. They are then steamed, air-dried and then freeze-dried or pickled. Green peppercorns have a fresh, tart, mild flavor at first, but the taste does not linger, as with other pepper varieties.


    • Peppercorn blends combine the unique flavor characteristics of different peppercorn varieties to create a medley of different pepper tastes. The European pepper blend is a mixture of white and black peppercorn. French peppercorn combines dehydrated black and green peppercorns for a strong, crisp and lingering pepper taste. Some manufacturers sell extra-hot black pepper, which is coarsely ground black peppercorns dusted with cayenne pepper -- a spicy chili pepper that is dried and ground into powdered form.

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