Black, White, Green, and Rose-Colored Peppers

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Pepper berries are processed to make several different versions of the spice.
  • Black pepper, the most common, is made from mature but unripe berries, still green and rich in aromatics. The berry spikes are harvested from the vines and the berries threshed from the spikes. The berries are then blanched for a minute in hot water to clean them and rupture the cells of the fruit layer to speed the work of the browning enzymes. Finally they’re sun- or machine-dried for several days, during which the outer fruit layer darkens.
  • White pepper consists of the pepper seed only, without the outer fruit layer. It’s made from fully ripe berries, which are soaked in water for a week to allow the fruit layer to be degraded by bacteria, then rubbed to remove the fruit layer, and finally dried. White pepper is mainly valued for providing pungency while remaining invisible in light-colored sauces and other preparations. It was developed into a major commercial product in Indonesia, which is still its major producer.
  • Green pepper is made from berries harvested a week or more before they would otherwise begin to ripen. The berries are simply preserved by treating with sulfur dioxide and dehydration, by canning or bottling in brine, or by freeze-drying. The flavor depends on the method of preservation, but includes some pungency and pepper aromatics as well as a fresh green-leaf note.
  • Pink pepper, or poivre rose, is a rarity made by preserving just-ripened red berries in brine and vinegar. (Pink peppercorns are entirely different; see below.)