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Cooking Tip: Know Your Pepper

peppercorns

Black, white and green pepper are all the fruit from a flowering vine. Green peppercorns are picked young, and usually sold in a brine. A black peppercorn is picked when still green and dried in the sun until it turns black. The white peppercorn ripens fully on the vine before it is picked. Then the outer black hull is removed.

Traditionally in western cooking, white pepper is used in light colored dishes where you don’t want black pepper freckles, like a white sauce or scrambled eggs. However, there is a difference in flavor as well. Black is a little warmer and more complex, white pepper a little brighter with a prominent muskiness.

The best way to figure out what your preference is, is to go to a spice shop and ask to smell the difference. Then decide if you care whether your white foods have dark bits or not (just as a personal note, the smell of white pepper is not my favorite at all. It reminds me of Uncle Emil’s barn).

A few pepper tips:

•Get your pepper from a place that has a high spice turnover so you know it is fresh and flavorful.


•Before grinding pepper, gently toast the peppercorns on a dry skillet to bring out its flavors.


•Keep pepper in your pepper mill so you can grind it fresh whenever you need it.


•Add pepper to your cooked dishes at the end of the cooking time, as high or prolonged heat causes it to lose its flavor.

 

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