Monday, May 25, 2009
Capers - Il-Kappar
Capers (kappar) have been a part of Mediterranean cuisine for thousands of years. In fact, they were often used as a type of currency among merchants travelling ancient trade routes. Soon, capers became favorite additions to fish sauces and marinades, along with brined and dried anchovies. The indigenous bush which produces capers is very well-suited to the sandy and nutrient-poor soil found in Malta. Caper bushes can often be found growing between the cracks of sidewalks and broken roads.
The salted and pickled caper is a distinctive ingredient in Maltese cooking: often used as a seasoning or garnish. The buds, when ready to pick, are a dark olive green and about the size of a kernel of corn. Capers ready for the market place are usually packed into distinctive glass jars filled with coarse salt or vinegar brine. They are used in salads, pasta salads, pizzas, fish dishes and pasta sauces. Examples of uses in Maltese cuisine are the “Hobz biz-Zejt”, "iz-Zalza tal-Lampuki". (Dolphin Fish sauce)
A number of kitchen supply stores and grocery stores in Malta sell bottled capers, so cooks should not have difficulty finding enough for a recipe. Capers straight out of the jar are far too salty for consumption, so it’s recommended placing them in a small strainer and rinsing them under running water before adding them to sauces or to fish. Because the flavor can be so intense, most recipes only require a few capers to add sharpness to a savory dish or sauce.
I still remember those days when our parents used to take us siblings for a walk in the countryside and to keep us occupied they used to give each of us a plastic bag to pick the capers from the bushes. It was kind of tedious but I used to love exploring all the nooks and crannies around me. Those were the days!
The caper bush