About Ground White Pepper
White pepper comes from the same fruit as black pepper. However, to get white peppercorns, the dark outer layer is removed from the berries before drying. White pepper is slightly mellower than black pepper with less flavor complexity. Ground white pepper is often used in lighter colored dishes — white sauces, cream soups, mashed potatoes, some salad dressings — primarily for aesthetic reasons.
The dark outer layer that remains on black pepper contains essential oils that contribute to its flavor profile — in addition to the bite of the piperine you’ll get hints of citrus, woodiness, and floral notes. White pepper is much simpler. It gives you that bite without the other layers of flavor, which is actually what you want in some dishes.
While black pepper is more common in American cooking, ground white pepper is used frequently in other cuisines — particularly French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Swedish cooking.
Harvesting white pepper
To harvest white pepper, the berries of the pepper plant are picked when fully ripe and the outer layer is removed before they’re laid out to dry. To remove the skin, fully ripe berries are soaked in water for about a week until the outer layer gets soft and can be easily rubbed off. This skin removal process is known as retting.
For black pepper, the berries are picked before they’re fully ripe and dried in the sun until the outer layer turns black.