05 May 2022
The Difference Between Peppercorns
Peppercorns are an essential ingredient and instant lift for your cooking - in ancient times the dried fruit was considered so precious that it was used as currency for trading! But what is the difference between black, white, green, red and pink? Just like green and black tea, black, white, red and green peppercorns all hail from the same plant, it is the processing of them that changes their colour and flavour.
Green Peppercorns are the youngest peppercorns, with the mildest flavour. Light in aroma and with a fresh, mild heat, they're ideal with steak, or in Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Use in dishes with a shorter cooking time.
Black peppercorns are dried green peppercorns where the outer skin has oxidised. Hot and pungent, with a fiery aftertaste, these are best freshly ground for full flavour. Use as a seasoning, or in dishes requiring a peppery hit. Great with bold curries.
White peppercorns are warming, sharp and pungent, with a distinct aroma. These are black peppercorns with the outer skin removed. Slightly more mild than black peppercorns, they are widely used for visual appeal in light sauces and dishes. Perfect as a seasoning for pork, and best used as a final flourish.
Red peppercorns have a more rounded and complex flavour, harvested only when the fruit stays to full maturity on the vine. Far less common as most peppercorns are harvested to make black or white pepper.
Pink peppercorns, you might be shocked to know, are actually the ripe berries of Peruvian and Brazilian pepper trees. However, they’re the same shape and size as regular peppercorns, as well as possessing a peppery flavour. But they're actually genetically closer to a cashew than a black peppercorn! Pink peppercorns have a similar flavour to black peppercorns, but they’re milder, slightly sweet and very fruity. When using pink pepper for the first time, it’s important to note that they are spicy in a way more reminiscent of chilis than actual pepper. Be sure to go in knowing what to expect.
Sichuan Peppercorns are again not actually a relative of black, white, green, or white peppercorns, but are from the Prickly Ash family. They husks of dried berries from a prickly ash shrub - and it's these little husks that are responsible for paraesthesia, the phenomenon that causes your tongue to vibrate and go vaguely numb. This peppercorn, most commonly used in Chinese cooking - particularly from the Sichuan region - has a distinctly hot, peppery kick with citrus notes and is one of the core ingredients in Chinese 5 Spice.
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