Peppercorns have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and cooking. They are the dried fruit of the pepper vine, which is native to southern India and southeast Asia. The common varieties of peppercorns (white, pink, green and black) can be used whole or ground. Peppercorns infuse flavor and intensity to dishes, sauces and rubs.
Using peppercorns in sauces creates a beautiful appearance and a combination of sweet and spicy flavors. For sauces, simmer 10 to 12 peppercorns for every four pounds of meat. For a less powerful flavor in a thinner liquid, use four to six peppercorns. You can also grind peppercorns for crusts, rubs and dressings for meats and to sprinkle in sauces (among dozens of other uses).
Use black peppercorns for the most common peppery flavor. Black peppercorns are picked from unripe or green pepper fruit, then dried, which results in the wrinkly black peppercorn fruit. Grind up enough peppercorns so you can see a fine dusting of the pepper. Ground black pepper adds flavor to soups, stews, chowders, salads and dressings, vegetables, seafood, casseroles and BBQ sauces. Add 8 to 10 whole peppercorns to boiling liquid per 2 pounds of chicken, shrimp, pot roast, beef and other meats.
Use green peppercorns for a fresh, light flavor. These peppercorns are picked at the same time as black ones, but they are not dried out. They are put in brine, which lets them retain their green hue. Their lighter sharp flavor is ideal for meaty sauces, pork and beef, or sprinkled on vegetables and salad dressings.
Use pink peppercorns for a sweet, spicy flavor. These are the most unique peppercorns because they are fragrant and add a beautiful pink color to dishes. TPink peppercorns are best simmered whole in sauces, marinades and reductions. They also complement fruit sauces, vinaigrettes and dessert dishes. You can also eat these peppercorns uncooked.
Use white peppercorns for the mildest flavor. White peppercorns are the seed of the black peppercorn after the flesh has been peeled back, then dried out. They're appealing because they do not show up as dark specks on food, but are easily concealed in dishes such as mashed potatoes and soups.
Peppercorns begin to lose potency as soon as they are ground, so the flavor begins to weaken after a couple of months.