What Do Capers Taste Like?
Countless top chefs are fascinated by this small ingredient, which regardless of its tiny size, always add a kick to any recipe which requires a big lift. But using capers at home is only just starting to increase in popularity as capers become more available in stores across the country. So, for many of us at home who come across a recipe which demands their use, it can leave us with a lot of unanswered questions. Many of us are left to wonder what do capers taste like. Read on to find out everything you need to know about why you should be using capers to flavor your food.
What Are Capers?
Capers are actually a naturally occurring ingredient that is being used more and more in family homes every day. Capers can be described as a cured flower bud. They the unripen flower buds of the prickly caper plant which is found across the Mediterranean and people have been using them for hundreds of years. The caper plant is readily found in the wild growing freely across the Mediterranean, but your store-bought capers will have usually come from a local farm to you. You can even try to grow your own caper plants at home, though germinating from seed is a tricky process but it is fairly simple to grow from fresh plant cuttings. A caper plant does however require a lot of sunshine in a dry area.
The caper plant produces big beautiful pink flowers which are plucked before they flower. The flower buds turn into the small green balls that you might recognize when they are dried in the sun. From time to time you might find larger capers in your store and these are the caper berries. Larger capers are produced when the flower buds are left to turn into caper bush fruit. These are not strictly capers and will be much bigger which also means that they will have a milder taste. True capers are flower buds pickled in an acidic substance once they have been dried using things such as vinegar or wine. This process is known as curing and gives capers their unique tangy flavor which may be reminiscent of olives.
A Taste of the Mediterranean
For an authentic taste of the Mediterranean you should be cooking your Italian meals with the addition of capers. They add a saltiness and a sharpness to dishes from their surprisingly compact and tiny kernel size with a suggestion of a delicate lemon flavor. It is this salty taste which makes them perfect for more creamy recipes as the taste cuts through the richness of the sauce. Capers are a traditional staple in Italian recipes as they can add an extra acidity to fresh dishes and pasta sauces. The exceptional influence that capers have in a pasta sauce is in part due to the fact that they pair very well with lemon juice which is very often used.
Typically, you are able to purchase jarred capers in a vinegar brine so that you are easily able to add them to your pasta dishes. As soon as they have been opened, you must store them in your refrigerator where they will happily keep for months. This allows you to keep your capers ready for action in any recipe including Mediterranean sauces, fresh green salads, or of course as a pasta or pizza topping.
Which Type of Caper to Buy
You will find that you can purchase capers either from a jar or as a dried product. Dried capers are not as easy to find in the store but looking out for them would be a good idea as they taste supreme. Dried capers will need rinsing for a few minutes before they are ready to use, but the fuss is worth the flavor which is unquestionably better, even if they are slightly more expensive than your pickle jar kind. Jarred capers are obviously easier to use in your recipes as you can find them more readily in any store next to the other pickles.
There is a suggestion that the smaller the caper is then the better it is going to taste. This is probably because people find that they taste saltier which will give the caper a sharper taste. However, the fact is that more often than not larger capers will have soaked up more of the brine that they are processed in which will ensure that they will also be packed full of flavor.
Capers Are Salty
If you have ever been in a position to pluck a fresh caper berry off of the plant, then you will probably have discovered that before being cured capers are going to taste salty, tough and extremely bitter. Capers have to be cured so that you can enjoy them properly and this process enhances the naturally salty tendency of capers. As well as curing them in an acidic liquid like vinegar, capers are also frequently ‘dry brined’ in a simple process using salt mixed with vinegar which produces a brine for the caper flower buds.
Capers that are brined in just vinegar without any additional salt taste pickled and will have a sourer taste in comparison to the capers that you buy which have been brined using salt. This may be a taste worth trying as it will add sharpness to your recipe. Even though capers can be salty, you can just rinse them underneath running water which should go a long way to take away the excess salty brine. However, if you enjoy salted flavors like olives then the salty taste of capers will be a pleasurable experience. Capers also have a balance of tart, lemon flavors that will give any dish added zing.
Flavor Pairings for Capers
There are many enjoyable caper food pairings that you can create. Lots of things can be used with the taste of the caper enhancing many dishes and partner foods. It is good to know how to combine the powerful flavor of a caper with other foods to create some remarkable dishes.
- Capers with fish. This is a classic combination as your capers will provide the perfect briny taste and offer more flavor to fish recipes. The acidity of the capers helps to cut right through any fattiness of the fish too.
- Capers with tomatoes. You can use capers to make a whole host of different sauces to give you a mix of sweet and salty tastes. You can stir in your caper into a tomato-based spaghetti sauce to add depth of flavor or sprinkle them over a pizza sauce base.
- Capers and beetroot. The acidity of capers goes handsomely with the sugary flavor that beetroot offers.
- Capers with citrus fruits. Whether you pair up your capers with lemon or limes, the combination will give any meal a sharp hit of intense flavor.
- Caper with tuna and anchovies. A fantastic way to use up your store cupboard goods and create an Italian classic dish. Mix together to create a lovely tuna-flavored sauce for pasta.
- Capers with peppers. A great way to make any dish spicy, you can add that combination to a spicy salad where the intense flavor of capers plays an important role.
- Capers with goat’s cheese. The existence of a specific acid in goats’ cheese will actually bring extra flavor to your capers. When they are paired with goat’s cheese, it brings out the notes of the cheese and intensifies its strength.
Are Capers Good for You?
The answer to this question is not as simple as either yes or no. Capers being a picked flower bud are naturally low in calories and they will add to your fibre intake for the day which is good for your digestion. The do not offer you many vitamins or minerals but that is not what you will be using capers for when you are just looking for an intense hit of flavor. However as has been said, they will probably be high in salt because of the curing process they are put through as they are pickled. If you need to keep an eye on your daily salt intake, then this is something worth thinking about before you begin to cook with capers. But, overall the taste of capers will add tons of flavor to your dishes and that is what is sometimes more important.
However you enjoy eating them, capers are being used more commonly as they give a powerful hint of flavor to any meal. They have a taste which is labelled as lemony, salty and similar to that of an olive. Capers will give texture to your dish and add a strong flavor to a wide diversity of recipes from pastas, to fish recipes, to the perfect tasting sauce. Since they do have such a strong flavor however, you do need to be mindful of how you use them in your dishes to make sure that all the flavors are well balanced.