The salted and pickled caper bud (also called caper) is often used as a seasoning or garnish. Capers are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. The mature fruit of the caper shrub is also prepared similarly, and marketed as caper berries.
The buds, when ready to pick, are a dark olive green and about the size of a kernel of maize. They are picked, then pickled in salt, or a salt and vinegar solution, or drained. This is how intense flavour develops, as mustard oil (glucocapparin) is released from each caper bud. This enzymatic reaction also leads to the formation of rutin often seen as those crystallized white spots on the surfaces of individual caper buds.
Capers are a distinctive ingredient in Sicilian and southern Italian cooking, used in salads, pizzas, meat dishes and pasta sauces. Examples of uses in Italian cuisine are chicken piccata and salsa puttanesca. They are also often served with cold smoked salmon or cured salmon dishes (especially lox and cream cheese). Capers are also sometimes substituted for olives to garnish a martini.
Capers are categorized and sold by their size, defined as follows, with the smallest sizes being the most desirable: Non-pareil (0-7 mm), surfines (7-8 mm), capucines (8-9 mm), capotes (9-11 mm), fines (11-13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm).
Unripe nasturtium seeds can be substituted for capers; they have a very similar texture and flavour when pickled.
Capers are not the only product to come from the caperbush. If the caper bud is not picked, it flowers and produces a sort of fruit called a caperberry. The fruit can is picked and pickled and then served as a Greek mezze.
In addition, the Greeks make good use of the caper’s leaves, which are especially desirable and hard to find outside of Greece. They are pickled or boiled and preserved in jars with brine like the caper buds. Caper leaves are excellent in salads and in fish dishes. Dried caper leaves are also used as a substitute for rennet in the manufacturing of high quality cheese.
How much does one cup of capers weigh?
Estimated US cup to weight equivalents:
|175 grams||6 ounces|
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