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The mild acidity of pickled capers fascinates both French and Italian cooks as well as gourmets. Capers are used in sauces, salads, served with smoked salmon, and even cured with salt.
The prickly caper bush thrives in hot and arid southern European countries and on the North African coast of the Mediterranean Sea. There are 150 species of the 1.20 metre tall creeping bush that likes rocky soil and which thrives well in southern France and Sicily where both regions cultivate the plant as a cash crop. Spain, Florida, and California are also major producers.
Capers are the immature flower buds that are hand harvested and preserved in vinegar or salt-cured. The smaller the caper, the more expensive it is, due to high labour involved in collecting. An appreciably higher and more pleasant acidity is present in smaller capers.
Very small berries are called non-pareille, and favoured by chefs due to their delicate texture and more pronounced taste.
Capers mix well with mayonnaise as in Sauce Ravigote. German cooks use them in milk and roux-based sauces mostly served with calf’s dumplings.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu
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