Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The Caper Experiment Continues
The Caper on the left has been brined for one day at room temperature and then six days in the refrigerator. The one on the right was picked this morning. The white spots on the brined caper are rutin crystals which form as mustard oil (glucocapparin) is released from the bud during the curing process. The mustard oil and rutin are important parts of the characteristic flavor of capers.
Here's the ounce of capers from last week spread out on a baking sheet with the brine to dry in the sun. I've also rigged up a cover of a single layer of cheese cloth to cover the pan to keep out bugs and other debris.
I've read about three different ways of curing capers. One is brining, which is what I'm experimenting with. If the capers are left in the brine solution at 60F to 72F for a month or more they will become pickled. Capers processed in this way can actually be left in the brine for up to a year without further processing. I don't want my capers to become pickled so I'm drying them after a week in brine. My second picking of buds (another ounce this morning) went into a fresh brine solution and straight into the refrigerator.
The second method I've read about is to mix the capers with coarse sea salt which draws the water from the buds to create a brine that cures the capers. The capers sit in the salt for 10 days, then are rinsed and mixed with fresh salt for a total of three 10 day treatments. After the final rinse the capers are packed in fresh sea salt.
The other cure is to simply dry the caper buds in the sun until as hard as dried chickpeas - no salting is involved. The dried capers must be soaked overnight in fresh water before using them.
As I said in my previous post, I love the salted and dried capers from Tunisia, but I've not found any particulars about the process, so I'm experimenting.