Pepper is one of the most famous seasonings in the whole world. It is an ancient spice that is filled with stories as it is with pungency. A story of a prince who won the heart of his beloved one with a newly innovative spice. Or perhaps a story of a spice that helped an army win a battle. Amazing, the right word to describe if we heard stories like that today. Wouldn’t it be fun? 🙂 The pepper may have not had the impact in such stories, but I am sure it changed the culinary world.
Your royalty Piper, pepper plant, usually grows in lowlands tropical rainforests. The characteristic smell of pepper comes from piperine. There are several variations of pepper, including green, white, red / orange and black pepper. The latter is natural from India and largest producer is Vietnam. The different colors on the peppercorns are dependent on the stage to which the fruit is removed, ripe / unripe and the chemical treatment given afterwards. The main difference between white and black, for example, is the fact that white pepper is a ripe version of the fruit seeds and the black unripe and strongly fermented version of the fruit. How curious is that?
As most spices and herbs, fruit need to be dried and sometimes the peppercorns need to be grind as well for better release of flavor. Many of these peppers are used to give an additional kick to the recipes. I personally think all the recipes should have a hint of pepper, just like they do with salt. It is an essential ingredient to any seasoning, and removes certain undesirable taste / flavor from dishes. One of them would be an omelet or fried egg. Usually the flavor of the yolk is strong for it to be handle on its own. Although some people like its flavor, it is hard for many others to consume an egg yolk without pepper. Just ask my brother, he will tell you 😀
The amazing thing about pepper is you can always find the right type of pepper to match with your dish. And even if you do not think it matches, pepper is perfect to add to a newly created recipe. Let us talk a little more about the different types / variations of pepper.
Black Pepper: Piper Nigrum is my favorite of all the peppers. Period. No discussion. Most of the dishes I make contain black pepper due to the nice taste and smell it adds to the food. The process to bring this beautiful black pepper is critical as the pepper itself easily promotes the formation of mold. The unripe fruit (green) is dried in the sun and then placed in piles. This is to foster fermentation, which will turn the fruit darker. Once fermented, the pepper is dried again and then it is ready to use.
Uses: Applicable to either vegetable, meat, seafood/fish, sauces, stews, gravy, it is the perfect pepper for almost all recipes. I like a good steak with peppercorns on top; it is delicious. Additionally, the black pepper adds a nice finish to dishes.
White Pepper: There is a pepper with milder flavor and which leaves very little trace of its presence. It is white pepper, the musty flavored pepper. The process for the white pepper is totally different as the fruit needs to be ripe and red. The fruit needs to get soaked for 1 – 2 weeks for fermenting. Can you imagine? The next step is to get the cores removed, washed and sun dried. Producers needs to be very careful with white pepper because it has a fast love affair with mold. 😉
Uses: Perfect for soups, creams, chowders, pork dishes, sauces, seafood dishes, mashed potatoes, etc. Basically if you want a sauce like Alfredo to be free of black pepper dots, then you should use white pepper.
Tip: Add the white pepper once the dish is cooked.
Green Pepper: Fruits for this type of pepper need to be unripe, but they go through a process using sulfur dioxide, canning or freeze canning in order to keep the green color. The green peppercorn have a milder complexity in comparison with white and black pepper.
Uses: Fish, chicken and vegetables will go great with this type of pepper.
Red Pepper: There is a similarity between the red and the green pepper like they both have to go through a process in order to retain the color. The opposite of green pepper, however, when it comes to the color of the fruit. It needs to be ripe (red) and dried. Hot in flavor but little pungency, red pepper is quite rare to find. Extra care to be applied when dealing with this type of pepper as it is very fragile.
Uses: Shellfish, citrus.
There you go, four types of the same family. As it is in a regular family, some will amaze you more than the others, but each type of pepper will provide you with a unique experience. Perhaps one you will not forget so soon. May pepper reign in your favorite dishes and become a delicious experience.
Until next time, Hungry People.
References for pepper processes: Spices and Seasonings: A Food Technology Handbook by Donna R. Tainter,Anthony T. Grenis.