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Get to Know the Different Varieties of Peppercorn and How to Use Them

Peppercorns begin life as berries which grow on a particular species of tree or vine, which means all varieties of peppercorns are actually fruits. When they are dried and ground up, they can be used as a very effective seasoning which provides a great deal of flavor to a number of different foods.

To be precise, peppercorns are a tiny fruit which is known as a drupe, a fruit containing just one seed at its center. These fruits can be plucked from a flowering vine or tree which is known as the piper nigrum, a tree only grown in tropical regions such as Southeast Asia and on the Indian subcontinent.

Some of the best peppercorns in the world now originate from the Indian state of Kerala, situated along the Malabar Coast. Most people have at least consumed the ground-up version of black peppercorns, which is common table black pepper, i.e. the shaker full of dark material next to your salt shaker. Almost every household in this country will have some pre-ground black pepper in the cupboard, for use in adding flavor to a number of different foods.

Many people also have some whole black peppercorns or rainbow peppercorns on hand for the same purpose, but which need to be ground up before usage. Most people are not aware that there are several different types of peppercorns, including white, pink, and red, and all of these are quite potent and useful for specific applications in cooking. Black peppercorns actually begin as green peppercorns, but after they've been dried and cooked in the sun, they turn black and assume their more recognizable color and shape.

Green peppercorns are the unripened fruit of the vine they're plucked from, and these fruits grow in thin bunches, clustered very much like grapes are on the grapevine. Once the green fruits are cooked and dried in the sun, enzymes work to transform the skin into a dark brown, which is almost black. The outer skin also begins to contract at that time and wrinkle up, into its recognizable state as a black peppercorn.

For something as unassuming as black pepper, you might never have anticipated the very long and colorful history that this little fruit has. In ancient times, it was actually used as a currency in Southeast Asia, and it was also used as a significant part of the mummification procedure in ancient Egypt. Obviously, those usages are now just part of history, but black pepper still plays a significant role in modern society, even if it's just to make all of our foods taste much better. Below, you'll be able to learn a little bit more about these types of peppercorns, and the ideal applications for them to be used in.

Pink peppercorns

These are pretty much interchangeable with white or black peppercorns, and they provide a splash of color to any foods they're served with. Pink peppercorns are aesthetically very pleasing, but they also have a powerful fragrance inside the hull, so don't be fooled by the soft pink appearance. Pink peppercorns should be used sparingly for this reason, because they have a tendency to overpower some foods if used in excess.

You might be surprised to learn that pink peppercorns are actually ideal for usage in something as subtle as a pineapple upside-down cake. For this confection, as well as several others, all you have to do is add two or three pink peppercorns to the sugar and butter mixture, and a couple more to the caramel sauce which tops off the layer cake. You may have to experiment with a few of your recipes in order to find just the right quantity of peppercorns to include in your recipe.

Gourmet pink peppercorn

Gourmet pink peppercorns come from exotic berries which grow on a tree that is actually a member of the cashew family. These berries are much prized for their sweet aroma and their delicate flavor. Almost any dish you care to use them in will be significantly enhanced. Many people like to use pink peppercorns in their seafoods, white meats, salad dressings, and even some desserts. These gourmet pink peppercorns are differentiated from the more ordinary variety by being even more delicate, and having an extra sweet aroma to them. They have become extremely popular among gourmet chefs, who appreciate them for the delicate flavor they impart, as well as the powerful visual appeal.

Black peppercorns

By far, the most prominent usage of black peppercorns is on various types of meat entrées. In a number of fine dining restaurants which don't include black pepper in their dishes, you'll still be able to find black pepper at the meat station so you can add it yourself. There is a significant but subtle heat imparted by black peppercorns, and when you grind them up coarsely, you'll find that in addition to being something of a flavor bomb, they also have tremendous texture.

Don't settle for whatever version of black pepper you might find in your supermarket, because you can easily find black peppercorn at a number of different retail outlets, as well as online stores. The great thing about black peppercorns is that they can be mellow, extra spicy, and sometimes even floral in their aroma.

Gourmet black peppercorns

The best gourmet black peppercorns come from Madagascar, and they have a rich aromatic flavor, as well as a refined earthy aroma and a powerful medium heat. Gourmet black peppercorns are often hand-picked to ensure that only the best berries are picked, and are not mixed in with lower quality berries. Many people use gourmet black peppercorns for the best tasting table pepper for everyday use. Since black peppercorns are so versatile, they can be used with virtually any kind of meat or seafood dish, as well as on salads and in dressings. When you want only the best, look for gourmet black peppercorns online or at your local retail outlet.

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