In Simon Hopkinson's recent television programme, "The Good Cook", I noticed that he seems to be pretty keen on white pepper, championing its use as a flavour combination with onions. This made me think. I have to admit that I've shunned white pepper in the past as the lesser cousin of the gutsier ground black variety. But is this the right approach?
What is the difference between black and white pepper? They're both obtained from the peppercorn- a small, dried berry which grow on the pepper vine (Piper nigrum). For White Pepper, the berry is picked when fully ripe; the outer layer of skin is removed, leaving the dried, whitish-grey kernel. A black peppercorn is picked when still green, and dried in the sun until it turns black.
And white pepper does have a different taste. It's slightly milder, with a different aroma- even, I think, slightly sweeter in taste? And there are times when it would be a mistake to use black pepper, often when you're cooking lighter coloured stuff. A classic white sauce immediately springs to mind.