Capers are the un- opened floral buds of Capparis spinosa or c. ineris. Originally, they are from the Mediterranean area. Capers were first mentioned on day tablets discovered in Crete in about 13 BC as a flavoring for oil. The ancient Greeks and Roman believed they help treat arthritis, gout, kidney problems, tooth aches, and warts. There are also many references to capers in the Bible.
C. spinosa is a tough prickly shrub native to Mediterranean basin and the Middle East. It is covered with tiny spines. It produces tiny flowers that are either white or pink, and they will last for only one day.
Capers contain capric acid, which gives the buds their slightly reminisce of goat cheese. Capers are time consuming because buds reach maturity at different times, so they must be hand-picked. The sun affects the flavor and aroma of the berries. After harvesting, the berries are dried in the shade for one day. Capers are packed in salt, or can be found in a salty vinegar brine.
There are two ways to cure capers. The first way is in a salt water brine. This method takes approximately two months. The second way is to cure in sea salt. The capers are packed in sea salt for 10 days, strained, and then repeated. After this, the capers are aged in barrels for 2 months. Before use, the capers need to be rinsed of their brine, or soaked for 15 minutes in water if they were packed in salt.
Capers come in different sizes. Starting with the smallest, and working to the largest, they are nonpareils (which contain the most flavor), surfines, capucines, capotes, fines, gruesas, and caper berries. Caper berries are produced after the bush flowers. Then a shiny green oval fruit filled with seeds is produced.
Capers have a delicate flavor, so they should never be cooked. The heat will dissipate the flavor. Some common dished made with capers include tapenade, vitello tonnato, caponato, pasta all puttanesca, tartar sauce, remoulade, and are used to garnish smoked salmon and steak tartar.
Fresh capers are in season from May to August.
© 2015 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger All rights reserved
cite me: Denlinger, J. (2015, March 26). Capers. Retrieved from: FloridaChef.net