White pepper is a spice that comes from its close relative – black pepper. This of course, is the type of pepper that many of us have on the table already in our salt and pepper grinder sets.
Black pepper is created by taking the dried berry of the climbing vine piper nigrum, which has a woody taste and aroma. While the peppercorn grows on the vine, it normally ripens from a green color, through to yellow, and then red.
Black pepper is made by picking these peppercorns, pickling them, and them drying them. This process turns them black, and strengthens the flavour. To make white peppercorns meanwhile, they are left on the vine slightly longer in order to lighten in color. They then go through the same drying process, but they end up looking slightly lighter due to the different starting point.
White pepper, like black pepper, belongs in all spice racks and spice grinder sets. In the next section, we’ll see just why it is such an indispensable tool in your cooking, and what you can make with it.
Using White Pepper in Cooking
Pepper is used in cooking in order to provide a little extra spice and to bring out the flavor. It pairs perfectly with salt and provides a good amount of contrast. When you consider that sugar and salt are not technically spices, it becomes apparent that pepper is in fact the most popular spice in the world!
Pepper is used in a vast range of different recipes and meals. It is common in British cookbooks where it is a key ingredient in stews, and often added to ‘fish and chips’. It is likewise common in Italian cookbooks, French cookbooks, and just about any others.
When using pepper, it is generally best to add it toward the end of the cooking process. In fact, it is common practice to leave the pepper on the table, so that guests can add it themselves.
Firstly: why use white pepper over black pepper? In terms of the flavor and aroma, the latter is normally a little stronger and sharper – though many wouldn’t notice the difference and of course you can increase the strength or reduce it by adding more or less.
The real reason to choose white or black pepper then, is aesthetic. If you’ve made a white sauce for instance, or a white pasta like carbonara, then the last thing you will want to do is to add lots of thick black peppercorns!
The best way to get to grips with any spice, is to try cooking with it. Grab your oven mitt then, and let’s give it a go!
To get an idea of how to use pepper in particular, we’re going to be making a carbonara. So take a saucepan (or frying pan) and use your cutting board to add red onion and bacon lardons with some olive oil. Fry these until they are caramelized, and meanwhile boil some pasta.
Once the pasta is cooked and the onion is slightly burned, drain the water and mix the two together. Grate and melt some cheese, then crack a single egg over the top and stir in without allowing to scramble. Finally, add some white pepper and serve.
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