The world's most popular spice, a berry grown in grapelike clusters on the pepper plant (a climbing vine native to India and Indonesia. The berry is processed to produce three basic types: black, white, and green. Black is the most common; when picken the berry is not quite ripe, then dried until it shrivels and the skin turns dark brown to black. Black is the strongest (slightly hot with a hint of sweetness) flavor of the three. Tellicherry and Lampong are among the best black peppercorns. White peppercorn, less pungent, has been allowed to ripen, then the skin is removed and the berry dried. White peppercorns are smaller, have a smoother skin and a light-tan color with a milder flavor. The green peppercon is the soft, underripe berry that is usually preserved in brine. It has a fresh flavor that is less pungent than the berry in its other forms.
Black and white are available whole, cracked, and ground. Green peppercorns are packed in brine and are available in jars and cans.
Whole: store in a cool, dark place for about a year. Ground will keep its flavor for about four months. Green peppercorns packed in brine should be refrigerated once opened and will keep for 1 month; packed in water will keep for a week.
Whole peppercorns freshly ground with a pepper mill deliver more flavor than preground.
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