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What Are Capers? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

What Are Capers? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

You may have seen capers in French and Mediterranean cuisines.

These little, dark green, pickled flower buds are the size of a pea and much-needed saltiness to many recipes including pasta puttanesca and chicken piccata.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what capers are and what they’re mostly used for.

What Are Capers?

These are pickled flower buds that are taken from the plant ‘Capparis Spinosa’ and then dried under the sun. 

If you let the flower buds mature, they become a fruit that’s about the size of an olive.

These are packaged in brine, sold everywhere as caper berries and consumed like pickles. Capers have been around for quite a while.

They’re harvested in many places around the world including Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, Southern Europe, and North Africa.

What Do Capers Taste Like?

Most people describe the flavor of capers as salty, tangy, and even lemony.

Because they are packaged in brine, they can also taste quite vinegary. 

What Are Capers Used For?

If you wish to add a strong, salty flavor to your dishes, then you should try using capers as an ingredient in your recipes.

They can be added as a topping on pizza, tossed into a salad, or chopped up and blended into a sauce.

You can also add them as toppings to any meat of your choice. They’re particularly great with salmon because the burst of acidity complements the flavor very well. 

They are a beloved ingredient in many cuisines around the world.

They’re used in Spanish tapas, added on top of a New York-style bagel with cream cheese for acidity, and if you’re into finger foods, you can also try making a caper pesto and serve it on a baked Crostini. 

Feel free to add them to any recipe that could use some saltiness.

You can use them as a condiment, garnish them on top of canapés, or chop them up to use them as a dressing. Add a handful to roasted vegetables to enhance the flavor. 

Since they’re quite strong in taste, you need to add be careful with the quantity or you’ll end up changing the flavor of your dish completely.

But before you can throw them into your favorite dish, you may need to do a little bit of preparation. 

Rinse the capers to remove saltiness

They can be used right out of the jar, but most recipes require you to rinse them first to get rid of the excess salt and brine and let their actual flavor shine through.

After you’ve washed them, you need to blot them with paper towels until they’re completely dry. 

Tips on using large capers

If you’re using large capers, then you need to chop them up before adding them to a recipe. If you’re making a tapenade out of them, you need to puree them using a blender or a food processor. 

They’re mostly added when you’re almost done with cooking. This allows them to retain their shape and true flavor.  

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How to Store Capers

You should store capers properly if you wish to increase their shelf life. If they were packed in brine, then you need to store them in an airtight jar.

Make sure they’re completely covered with brine. Place them in the refrigerator to preserve them for up to nine months or more. 

If the capers are packed in salt, you should also put them in airtight containers.

They don’t need to be placed in the refrigerator and can be stored for about six months at room temperature.

You can keep unopened containers inside your pantry. 

Do Capers Go Bad?

Just like most pickles, capers also go bad eventually. Here are some ways you can tell if they’re unsafe to consume:

  • If the top of the lid becomes dome-like instead of staying flat. This means the jar wasn’t properly sealed and the capers may have gone bad.
  • If you open a jar for the first time and don’t hear a pop. This means that the seal was broken and you should discard it right away.
  • If you notice something brown or black in the jar (excluding any spices), then don’t consume the capers. Throw them away immediately.
  • If they’ve darkened with time and the best before date has also passed. Sniff them to see if they smell unpleasant. If they do, throw them out. Trust your nose on this one.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve learned all about capers, you can easily add them into any recipes and elevate their flavor profile.

If you wish to prolong their shelf life, make sure you’re storing them properly and buy sealed containers.

Keep an eye on the best before date as well.

If you notice anything strange about the smell or the coloration, throw them out immediately.

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