How to pickle caper berries, leaves and stems picked fresh from a field in Cyprus or anywhere else in the Mediterranean.
Fresh young caper leaves
Do you love capers, those tiny little berries you buy in jars of vinegar?
I use them in all kinds of recipes from pasta with roasted vegetables to a quick sauce poured over a pork chop together with mustard and lemon juice.
We're surrounded by caper bushes at our rural home and we often eat the stems, thorns and all, at tavernas when they are served as a free starter to pick on while waiting for the main course. I've never tried pickling them myself, but as part of my quest to live as self sufficiently as possible, I decided to have a go this year.
Maria at the coffee shop in Lysos gave me her recipe for pickling capers and the stems starting with picking plenty of young green shoots like those in the picture opposite.
Tip: You can pickle the stems and the berries together or, if you prefer, pick the berries off and pickle them separately. That makes them easier to use in recipes.
How to pickle caper leaves & stems
Here's how to pickle caper berries and their stems:
Pick your young stems while still soft as you don't want any hard woody sections which won't soften easily.
Cut off the sharpest thorns with a pair of scissors and be careful not to prick your fingers while doing so. Ouch!
Pop the caper leaves in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. They will start to release a gorgeous "greens" aroma and plenty of colour.
The next day change the water and add another kettle of boiling water to the caper stems.
On the third day, rinse the capers then cover them with rock salt for 24 hours.
The next day pop them into a large jar and cover with white vinegar. There should be enough residual rock salt around the capers. If there's too much, rinse a little off if you don't want your capers to be too salty.
The leaves will be ready to add to salads in a few days or you can leave them and the caper berries in vinegar for several months to allow them to "marinate" in the vinegar.
The gorgeous caper flower
One of my favourite caper recipes is to roast some Mediterranean veggies like peppers, aubergines, courgettes and onions with garlic, some fresh oregano, plenty of pepper, a little salt and plenty of olive oil.
When roasted, add a handful of caper berries, then mix with part-cooked penne pasta and a bechamel white sauce. Top with cheese and roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
You can also just add the roasted vegetables and capers to cooked pasta for a healthy pasta salad.
Tip: I always roast more veggies than I need as they're great to add to other things like healthy quinoa or millet - a fab lunch:)
Or for a quick supper, fry some pork chops for a few minutes each side. Remove from the pan to rest while you make a sauce from some tinned anchovies, a teaspoon of grainy mustard, a handful of capers and some lemon juice. Add the pork pan juices and you have a scrummy yummy sauce prepared in seconds:)
Tip: Did you know that the actual caper berry is the gorgeous flower above picked before it has had time to grow and open. You need to get up early and pick them before the flowers have "woken" up.