3 Types of Peppercorns You Should Always Have in Stock

Bon Appétit

Does pepper need any introduction? Native to India, specifically the tropical, southwest region now known as the Malabar Coast, this globally beloved fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) gives au poivre sauce its nose-tingling heat, congee its belly-warming comfort, and cacio e pepe its robust bite. But because it’s so ubiquitous—it accounts for 20 percent of the entire world’s spice trade—it often gets taken for granted.

Each type of pepper is worth celebrating, and is so much more than salt’s defacto counterpart. Whether you’re reaching for green, white, or black peppercorns, this ingredient is incredibly complex, bursting with flavors that can range from bright and lemony to deeply nutty. When used with care, it can lend palate-awakening pops of texture and heat just as readily as it can meld into a cozy backdrop of savoriness. And once you know how to select the best type of peppercorn, you’ll never look at a pepper shaker the same way again.

Types of peppercorns

Different types of peppercorns—green, black, and white—all start the same way: as a drupe, growing in clusters on a flowering vine of the plant Piper nigrum. That fruit, depending on how ripe it is when it’s harvested and how it’s processed, is what becomes the three types you’re most likely to come across in recipes.

Green peppercorns

Green peppercorns are harvested before they’re fully ripe, then either freeze-dried to a crushable texture or brined, which renders them almost caper-like. Brighter, milder, and more vegetal than black pepper, it is commonly used in Thai curries, and gives a classic French steak au poivre its briny bite. Use green pepper in recipes like this Porterhouse With Summer Au Poivre Sauce, where pickled green peppercorns give a softer punch than black, and bring chewy pops of texture.

Black peppercorns

The ubiquitous black peppercorn is also picked before it has reached full maturity. Unlike its green counterpart, it’s then blanched in hot water before being dried, which gives it that wrinkly, crackly skin. Despite their name, black peppercorns can range in color from a silvery gray to chocolate brown to a deep maroon.

The flavor of the black peppercorns in your grinder has a lot to do with where they were grown and harvested, much in the same way that Chardonnay grapes from two different regions will yield distinctly different wines. And like wine, the distributors of high-quality pepper will often proudly tout its origins.

Indian pepper from Malabar and Tellicherry, where it has been cultivated for millenia, tends to be sweet and fruity, with bright citrusy notes. Sarawak peppercorns from Malaysia lean more earthy and mild. Cambodian Kampot peppercorns can have a resiny, more astringent aroma like eucalyptus or menthol.

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Author:Antara Sinha | Website:www.bonappetit.com

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