White pepper is the name given to ripe peppercorns. The red pepper berries have their skin removed and are soaked in brine before being dried and then stored out of the sun. Sweeter than black pepper (which is picked before ripening and then dried), white pepper is appreciated by leading chefs for its subtle flavor and elegant discretion in sauces and dishes that need to be kept white.
White pepper is very common. It is readily found in supermarkets and gourmet grocery stores packaged in jars or packets of different sizes. It is better to buy white peppercorns than ground pepper that will lose its flavor more quickly. Certain types of white pepper are actually a cream color. However, there is a pepper known as “ultra-white,” which is particularly prized by chefs. The peppercorns are selected individually by hand, and only the whitest are kept.
As with all peppercorns, it is advisable to grind the white peppercorns just before use. This will develop the aromatic strength of the pepper. The peppercorns can also be crushed.
White pepper should be added to a preparation toward the end of the cooking process.
This pepper has a less fiery, more subtle flavor that adds finesse to white meats, such as veal, chicken, and certain fish, such as cod. No less can be said of vegetables, broths and stocks, and white sauces.
White peppercorns can be stored for several years away from light and moisture. If ground, white pepper can only be stored for three months, otherwise its qualities will be altered.
White pepper is high in nutrients, particularly phosphorous and magnesium.
These are several varieties of white pepper that all belong to the same family (Piper nigrum). The best-known Asian varieties are Sarawak white pepper, which comes from Borneo and has a woody and acidic flavor. It is an excellent match for fish, white meats, and fresh goat cheeses. Grown in Cambodia, Kampot white pepper has a minty flavor that is well-suited to white meats and sauces. The delicate Muntok white pepper from Sumatra is more suited to soups and foie gras. Penja white pepper from Cameroon is a sweet and sophisticated white pepper that is a perfect match for pork and fish. Finally, white pepper from Belem in Brazil has an ivory color with hints of anise and cilantro that enlivens the flavor of red meat and chocolate. These white pepper varieties are readily available from gourmet grocery stores and online retailers.