We like to think of them salty, tangy goodness. Seriously though, what are capers? Often seen in Mediterranean foods, capers come from the capparis spinosa; commonly known as the caper plant. This plant produces lovely purple and white flowers. However, if you pick the bud before it becomes a flower, you have yourself a caper. This bud is sun-dried, then cured.
Capers are typically grown in the Mediterranean; with some being grown in Australia and Asia. Pantelleria is generally thought of as the best source of high quality capers. Pantelleria is an Italian island located approximately 100km southwest of Sicily.
You will notice that capers come cured in a jar. The curing process brings out their fantastic flavor. Capers can be brined in salt and water, mixed with salt and vinegar, or just cured in dry salt. Capers range in size. The larger ones have a stronger flavor, but are less fragrant.
These little delights have a tangy flavor that is a perfect accompaniment to such Mediterranean dishes as caponata and pasta puttanesca.
Some would venture to say capers have a somewhat lemony flavor. This bit of acidity can be used to elevate dishes and give them complexity. People often use them in cooking for the added saltiness. They can be used as a topping for pizzas or salads. They even frequent many sauces.
If you have noticed caper berries at your grocery store, you will see they are larger than typical capers. Caper berries are a fruit that grows on the tree if the flower is allowed to mature and fall off. It essentially looks like an oblong olive. It tastes much like the bud; yet, more mellow.
Capers are not easy to harvest. They are too delicate and tiny to pick by harvesting machines. Therefore, they must be harvested by hand. The extra laborers and time spent harvesting result in a heftier price tag for us consumers.
So let’s remember what we have learned here! Larger capers have a stronger flavor, but are less fragrant. The curing process can be dry salt, salt and water, or vinegar and water. Caper berries are larger and more mellow in flavor than the typical caper. Capers have some saltiness to them. Depending on the curing process used, they can also have some acidity (when cured in salt and vinegar). We hope this information helps you choose the right caper for your needs. Follow The Family Dining Room for more articles and ideas for your kitchen and home.