It’s Friday

Add variety to meals in 2018: try white pepper

Greetings friends, it’s Friday, the first of the new year! All day Monday I was thinking about this article. I had already decided to write about white pepper for this week, so as usual, I worked on it in my head before I sat down after supper to type it out. But all morning I was watching the Rose Parade, too. The floats and horses were absolutely gorgeous. I loved hearing the descriptions of the materials covering the floats. Everything on the exterior of the floats must come from a plant. So, besides flowers and leaves many other plant materials are used, even moss, bark, seaweed, and ground up spices. The creativity and ingenuity are just mind boggling. But it was a pink pom-pom hat I was looking for in the crowd.
I was also trying to make a coconut pie for DW and me to have for our New Year’s Day dessert. One of our favorites. But being distracted by the television as well as the texts with pictures coming from Pasadena I forgot to put the coconut in.
Zachary, Kristine, and Emree (who was wearing a hat with pink pom-poms) were there for the whole parade with Emree’s other grandparents who live in Southern California. Luckily, I realized what I’d done, rather not done, in time to toss a handful of grated coconut onto the meringue, about the time the last picture came. Emree was asleep in her grandmother’s lap; the excited two-year-old made it to the last float.
I didn’t hear of white peppercorns being used on the floats, but it sure could have been. I like white pepper. It has a very, very, very…very mild flavor reminiscent of nutmeg to me. Culinary descriptions call it earthy or even musty. I prefer my description.
Pepper is the world’s favorite spice. It took spice traders and explorers around the world in search of a quicker route to find this berry and get it back to the then-known world. And they found the new world in the meantime.
Same thing but different. Both black and white peppercorns are berries from the piper nigrum plant. The difference between the two is only a matter of processing. Black peppercorns are picked when the berries are almost ripe. The berries are sun-dried after picking which darkens their outer layer and adds more of a pungent element to the flavor, as we know black pepper to possess. White peppercorns are picked when the pepper berries are fully ripe and then soaked in water for 10 days. Afterwards the outer layer of the berry is removed, removing more of the pungency and burn found in the black pepper, and leaving the lighter colored inner seed. That’s why they’re different in taste and looks.
Many Chinese and other Asian inspired dishes use white pepper for extra flavor. But my favorite use is in cream sauces and potato dishes. I think they look prettier without the dark flecks of black pepper but the taste of white pepper is very complimentary too.
Just experiment by substituting white pepper for black, little by little to see if you like it. White pepper should be added after the dish has been cooked because overheating can release a slightly bitter flavor. And it tends to clump when added, so you have to whisk it in.
Go gourmet: I like it in potato soup, clam chowder, my asparagus casserole, pasta sauces, and in seafood dishes. You can even add a dash or two to mashed or whipped potatoes for a subtle touch. And for the very best Swedish meatballs, just add a ½ teaspoon or so to your recipe, omitting the black pepper.
White pepper is a little more expensive than black pepper, but then you probably won’t use it as often. But, if you like freshly cracked pepper as much as I do, fill the pepper mill with half black and half white peppercorns. Oh so good on anything! Which means you can get away with less salt without giving up any flavor! Good and good for you.
So we’re off to a tasty new year! I hope you’re resolved to try to new things in 2018. I’m game! Variety is the spice of life so they say!

 

Recipe of the Week
Baked Potato Soup
Put pepper mill on the table for those wanting more flavor! Best ever!

4 large baking potatoes, baked and cooled
2/3 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
4 green onions, chopped, divided
12 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled, divided
5 ounces cheddar cheese, grated, divided
1 8-ounce carton sour cream
½ teaspoon white pepper

 

Cut potatoes in half, scoop out pulp. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook one minute, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Slowly add milk, whisking slowly as it thickens. Add potato pulp, salt, 2 tablespoons green onion, ½ cup bacon, and 1 cup cheese. Cook until thoroughly heated; stir in sour cream and white pepper. Add extra milk, if necessary for desired thickness. Serve with remaining onion, bacon and cheese.

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