The Harvest Moon Soup I made recently called for white peppercorns. Through luck and a grocery list, I remembered to pick some up while at the grocery store. (Side note: I adore grocery stores that have a bulk section for spices.) Despite a rather eye-opening experience in my past when I learned that not all pepper is created equal, I was still skeptical of whether there was any real need for white peppercorns as opposed to the more common black. It was a light colored soup, and I figured that was the motivation. But it’s sort of silly to me, as far as motivations go. Personally I don’t care if my creamy yellow soup has black flecks.
The real question, to me, is whether the different types of peppercorn make a difference in the taste. The eye-opening peppercorn blend that I found so delicious in my past was a blend that had white, black, green and red, if I remember correctly.
I’m still not really convinced that the white peppercorns make a difference. I decided to do some online research.
It was interesting reading, especially about the history. And I had a little internal chuckle when I read that though Americans are the biggest consumers of pepper in the world, there’s virtually no market for high quality pepper here. It is hard to be surprised.
Spicelines said this:
Unlike black peppercorns which are harvested when the berries are still green, berries for white peppercorns are left on vine to ripen until they turn yellow or red. After the harvest, they are packed into jute bags or wooden barrels, then washed or soaked in cool water to loosen the outer shell. They are rubbed clean and washed again to reveal the pale inner core of the peppercorn, then dried in the sun or in a kiln.
White peppercorns tend to have a sharp. hot flavor and a relatively mild aroma since the outer pericarp where the fragrant compounds are located has been removed. White peppercorns that have not been properly dried and are still damp when packed develop an odor known as “dirty socks.” In the trade this refers to “a moldy, musty flavor” or a “soured aroma.”
And what did people, in general, have to say about the taste difference? Interestingly, people can’t seem to agree whether the white peppercorns are spicier or milder. It is said that there are less “citrusy” notes to the white peppercorn flavor. Citrus? I don’t remember ever tasting citrus with my black peppercorns!
Alas, this might be a question that is simply beyond my taste buds, which never function quite up to spec.