Wednesday, June 24, 2009
It's Caper Time Again - Week 6
There they are, six weeks worth of caper pickings. The bottom row, from left to right, weeks 1 thru 3. The top row, from left to right, weeks 4 thru 6 (another 2 1/2 ounces). The small jar in the middle are week 4 extra large long-stemmed capers that I've taken out of the brine and put into a 50% white wine vinegar solution. Those are going into the refrigerator to pickle for a couple of weeks. The rest of week 4 will be packed into salt like batch 3. Batches 1 and 2 were dried and I'm keeping those in jars at room temperature.
I've been tasting the capers at all stages of the process. Last week I tried one bud fresh off the plant - yuck! It amazes me that anyone could ever figure out that something so sharp and bitter tasting could be transformed into something delicious. A week of brining entirely transforms the flavor, although they still have a bit of sharpness, after two weeks the sharpness is mostly gone. The dried capers are improving in flavor as they sit and so have the ones that I packed into sea salt. Both the dried and salt packed capers have a floral quality the commercial vinegar packed capers totally lack.
The latest batch is going to sit in brine for three weeks. I have been putting the capers into a fresh brine each week. I read that the Italian salt cured capers are made by mixing the fresh dry buds with plain sea salt and the salt pulls moisture out of the capers to create a brine. They use a 30 day process in which the capers are salted and drained 3 times and are then finally packed into fresh salt for storage. The commercial caper processors work with vats of buds, the small amounts of capers that I'm working with don't create their own brine which is why I've been putting them into a brine solution.
Last week I used some of the last dried and salted capers from last year in a tomato salad. I soaked the capers in some warm water for a bit to remove some of the salt. Then I tossed them in some extra virgin olive. Those were scattered on top of some sliced heirloom tomatoes (store bought but pretty good) with some crumbled feta cheese, a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a bit of balsamic vinegar, and chopped fresh basil. The occasional hit of salty caper was great with the tomatoes.