Besides salt, pepper is the most popular seasoning in the kitchen. Pepper is produced from the berries of the pepper plant. Each plant can produce berries that are fit for pepper production for 40 years. The pepper plant is cultivated in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and India. The US is the biggest importing country and India is the biggest exporting country of pepper.
Production process of pepper
The berries of the pepper plant (Piper nigrum) are manually picked when the berries are not yet ripe. Unripe berries are still green, while ripe berries are red. The berries have a size of 0.2 to 5 mm and each becomes a peppercorn. The black and white pepper originate from the same plant. Red peppers originate from an other plant. Green pepper is treated so that it remains green.
Production of black pepper
The berries spread on large platforms in order to dry in the sun. This drying process takes a week or one and a half week. After drying the berries are black. An other and faster way to dry the berries is by picking the berries at a later time when they start becoming red and by boiling them in water for 10 minutes. In this way, they only have to dry for three to four days. After an hour the berries turn black.
Production of white pepper
In order to obtain white pepper the corns are, after being harvested, packed in large bags and placed in running water for 15 days. Or they are stored in a silo after they have been boiled. Bacteria make sure that the fruit of the berry is removed so that the seed of the berry remains. In this way a white peppercorn appears. An other method to obtain white pepper is by mechanically removing the outer layer of the berry. In the producing countries the traditional method is preferred. Because the fruit of the berry is removed the white pepper has a more mild taste.
Production of green pepper
For the production of green pepper the picked berries are put in a brine of pure water, salt and preservatives. In this way the berry does not dry. Instead of the brin, vinegar can also be used. Before the pepper is used the brine has to be washed off. Green pepper is only available in whole peppercorns.
Production of red pepper
For the production of red pepper another pepper plant is used, the so called Schinus terebinthifolius. These peppercorns are poisonous when they are used in large quantities and therefore have to be used sparingly.
The peppers are not heated during the process, but only dried. This results in a product with many spores and micro-organisms. In order to make the peppers more safe they are irradiated or gassed. Gassing food is only allowed with a few dry herbs.
In the store whole peppercorns as well as ground pepper can be obtained. For the ground pepper the corns are preground in a dry roll milling process. The corns are transported through two rollers that have such a distance that the corns are crushed. In this process the aromas of the peppercorns are released. Unground pepper has to be ground in a pepper grinder.
The pepper (ground or unground) are packed in large industrial packings or in consumer packings. Afterwards it is ready for distribution and consumption.