The pepper corn is a wonderful spice. It's the dried unripe fruit of the piper nigrum plant.
Black pepper is the dried berry, harvested just before it's ripe. White pepper is the same berry left a little longer, but still not ripe. The black cap comes off as the berry is processed and the white seed is used.
The most versatile form, however, may be the green pepper corn. These are the least ripe, the most immature form of the berry. It is availabe either dried or canned in a weak brine.
Don't think that just because they are less ripe that dried green peppercorns pack less heat.They can be uncomfortably blistering and should be used in the same way as black ones: ground at the table or as part of a steak seasoning or in dishes such as stews that will be simmered for a while. They break into small granules much easier than black peppercorns and are superb for crusting a steak before it is grilled or broiled.
Brined green peppercorns are much more subtle than dried ones. They have a surprising delicate taste with just a suggestion of peppery potency. Bite into a these and there is a short intense burst of flavour with a clean finish and a quick hint of evergreen.
These pickled berries are great in vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, or in any sauce that requires pepper without the bite. Try them in a homemade boursin type cheese. Drain a tablespoon of green peppercorns and mash them into a half cup of cream cheese. Roll the cheese in your favourite herbs. Shape it into a ball or cylinder. Wrap it and chill it in the refrigerator before serving.