Whole White Peppercorn: At a Glance
Whole white peppercorns are the spicy seeds from the black pepper, or Piper nigrum, vines. This is the same vine that produces black peppercorns, but white peppercorns are left on the vine longer to ripen further than the black ones. The picked fruits are then soaked to soften their skins and flesh. After soaking, the fruit is removed to reveal the seed underneath.
White peppercorns are milder and less spicy than the black variety, as most of the pepper fruit’s heat is in its skin. The soaking process also adds a slightly fermented taste. White peppercorns are not as aromatic as black peppercorns, which is a relief for many people who sneeze around this more common pepper. The better quality the white peppercorns, the more fragrant they will be.
Cooking With Whole White Peppercorn
While black pepper is more commonly used in the Western world, Asian dishes typically call for white pepper. These include Thai dishes like the red curry thae phoh and the appetizer maa uaan, which features a mix of minced shrimp and pork. In Vietnam, the grilled lemongrass pork chops called thit heo nuong xa wouldn’t be the same without a hit of white pepper. People throughout Asia tend to sprinkle white pepper onto their meats and seafood before grilling, broiling, or frying it.
In the rest of the world, white pepper is typically used in recipes where the dark color of black pepper would make the meal appear dirty or dusty. For example, white pepper is common in mashed potatoes, creamy pasta sauces, and casseroles. You’ll also see white pepper in many seafood dishes, where black pepper would appear dirty against the pale flesh of fish, lobsters, shrimp, and other marine delicacies. White pepper also makes a great choice for marinades and salad dressings.
Whole white peppercorns are most commonly used in the following ways:
- Ground: Use a pepper mill, spice grinder, or mortar and pestle to grind your whole white peppercorns into a fine powder. The grinding process releases more of the pepper’s delicious oils and aroma. While unground whole white pepper has a shelf life of several years, you should only grind as much white pepper as you need to use in your dish. Ground white pepper loses most of its taste and fragrance in just 30 minutes.
- Whole: Wrap some whole white peppercorns in a cheesecloth or muslin pouch and let them infuse in a stew, casserole, or soup. The flavor will be milder than adding ground pepper directly to the dish.
Whole White Peppercorn: History and Origination
Pepper has been one of the world’s most important spices for most of its history. As they come from the same vines, the histories of white and black pepper are closely linked. Peppercorns of both types were used by cooks in India as early as 2000 B.C. Ancient Egyptians used pepper to mummify corpses, while the ancient Romans used it for currency.
Pepper was one of the most important spices traded between European nations during the Age of Discovery. Christopher Columbus was searching for pepper and the “spice islands” when he discovered the New World. During the Middle Ages, peppercorns were worth more than gold. They were a luxury afforded to only the wealthiest Europeans until around 1800.
Cultivation of Whole White Peppercorn
Black pepper vines love tropical climates like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, and their native India. They thrive in moist soil with good drainage and high nutrient levels. The vines take four or five years to bear fruit, but once they do, growers can usually count on seven annual growing seasons.
Pepper growers pick the black pepper fruit from the vines at the end of the growing season, usually around February or March. When they desire black pepper, growers must pick the fruits before they reach maturity for optimum pungency. However, white peppercorns require a little longer on the vine.
Once the ripe pepper fruit is picked, it’s soaked in water for at least eight days. This softens the fruit, making it easy to remove from the seeds. The seeds are then left in the sun to dry, as black peppercorns are after harvesting, during which time they take on their familiar white finish.
About Our Whole White Peppercorn
We source premium white peppercorn from Thailand, and we keep it whole to maintain its taste and aroma. Its packages are sealed to keep it fresh, which is so important because white peppercorns become stale faster than black ones. You may notice some of our white peppercorns look gray, rather than white. That’s because we don’t add whitening chemicals or enhancers, as some other companies do, to change the appearance of our white peppercorn. We believe the taste is far more important, and this suffers with additives. Try our whole white peppercorn, and we’re sure you’ll agree.