phlip at 99main.com
Thu Aug 23 09:49:33 PDT 2007
This came across a mundane List I'm on, and I thought it might be of
interest to newer cooks.
CAPERS ARE ACTUALLY PICKLED FLOWER BULBS
Capers are the pickled flower buds of a thorny, trailing shrub that
grows like a weed all over the Mediterranean. It's a stubborn, ornery
plant, difficult to cultivate, with a preference for dry, stony
places. You'll find it growing from rocky cracks and crevices and
climbing stone walls.
When raw, capers are insipid things. Fortunately, it was discovered
thousands of years ago that pickling transforms capers, lending them a
salty-sour pungency and unique aroma that have won the caper an
important place at the Mediterranean table.
The quality of capers is inversely related to their size; the smaller,
the better. The best, sold as nonpareilles or surfines, have an extra
intensity and cost to match.
During harvest, special care must be taken to pick the buds early in
the day before they have a chance to bloom. (Blooming gives you a
beautiful white and violet-colored flower but no caper.) If you let
the flower fruit, you end up with a berry the size of a small olive.
These berries, called caperberries, also need to be cured in brine and
are best treated like cornichons or any other pickle. You'll often
find them on antipasti plates.
Bottled capers will keep indefinitely as long as they are submerged in
their own brine. So take care to leave the brine behind when spooning
capers from their jar. If they're not submerged, use them faster, and
don't top off the jar with vinegar - it'll make them spoil faster.
Source: The Food Network
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