How is Black Pepper and White Pepper processed?
Once upon a time Pepper was so precious and it was Arab maritime merchants who sourced pepper from the Malabar coast of India and took it to the traders of Alexandria and the mediterranean. During medieval times, from where did these black granules came was a highly disclosed secret. There were stories that these peppercorns were guarded by demons and dragons and one would need to evade these obstacles to procure these high value commodities.
There are many forms of pepper that is available in the market, the point is that all of these peppercorns come from the same vine. These ripe pepper berries are harvested, they are handled vigorously by feet to remove the peppercorns from its strip. These peppercorns are packed into large sacks and it is from this stage that different processes are applied to achieve different forms of pepper for various requirements. Black Pepper requires berries that are just about to ripen, the tip of the strip starts to ripen, that is when the berries are ready to be harvested. However for White Pepper, the berries have to be entirely ripen, the whole pepper strip should almost look red in colour.
Pepper has a once in a year harvest, it is a vine that does not require much of maintenance. Basic nutrition supply is what it requires, however over years pepper plantations have been destroyed in many pepper producing belts like that of Wayanad in Kerala. The slow wilt disease that affected plantations in Wayanad spread across a long belt of pepper plantations. The harvest would be very minimal and it could even disrupt and ruin the lives of pepper farmers as a recovery from the disease would take time and the time for alternative income sources were bleak. Idukki planters once had a tragic time with diseases for their Pepper vines and that was when many planters moved to alternative plantation crops like that of Green Cardamom.
Black Pepper is a processed form of Pepper where the ripe peppercorns are put to sun dry for 4 hours each day for upto 4 days. They are put in sun when the heat is strong, mostly from 10 am to 2 pm during the day. The green and red pepper corns turn black over time until the moisture level is achieved less than ten percent. when you hold the peppercorns tight, none should stick on to your hand, all of it should flow down when you release them. That is how you get to know that the Pepper is done for use.
White Pepper on the other hand has a different procedure. Purely ripen pepper berries are soaked in water from ten days to two weeks, a partial fermentation process is initiated and the microbial action loosens the skin. The skin is then peeled off from the berry and the outcome would be white peppercorns, they are then sun dried or dried in a drying just to take out if any water is left back. The moisture content has to be less than ten percentage.
While Black Pepper concentrates all of the pepper properties including heat, flavour and aroma. White Pepper is primarily used for culinary requirements to avoid the black traces of crushed black peppercorns. White Pepper lose a lot of its properties while the skin is peeled off, including piperin which contributes to the spiciness of Peppercorns. Buy Black Pepper and White Pepper from Spices Malabari and test yourself to see the difference.