shakers logo 

Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.

Questions and Answers
Send us mail
Free update
About us
Media mentions
Recipe Index
Reference Desk
Books We Like
Poster Store

Our Mini-Mall

Help make this site more useful and fun! Write with your ideas or comments.

Building better Web sites through better information. Click here and take our poll!

amazon gourmet food link






Capers Uncovered

cartoon shrimp graphic


Questions about capers flood our mailbox. Find out what they are, how to use them and then treat your tastebuds to a tangy shrimp and spinach salad. 

The cookbook is now available for purchase! To find out more about it as well as take advantage of special website pricing ($8 off--use discount code U9KGY74Z) visit the Spiced Right e-store at CreateSpace.

We got a glowing review! Check it out at the Chef Talk website.


Capers Uncovered

by Sandra Bowens

What is a caper? Where do they come from? How do I use them? These are all common questions asked about capers. Let's start at the beginning.

What is a caper?

These small green spheres are the unopened flower bud of a Mediterranean bush, Capparis spinosa. Closely related to the cabbage family, the shrubby plant resembles a rose bush. Each bud is picked by hand in the early morning hours before it can open. Capers are harvested daily from May to July. They have no great taste appeal when eaten fresh but after pickling they take on a pungent flavor.

After drying the buds in the sun, they are pickled in a strong vinegar brine. Most are bottled in this brine but they may also be packed in salt. This salt-pack method is far superior for maintaining quality and flavor. In her book, From Julia Child's Kitchen, Mrs. Child suggests replacing half of the brine in a jar of capers with vermouth to improve their flavor.

Where do capers come from?

Although they are grown throughout the Mediterranean as well as parts of Africa and Asia, the finest capers are said to be the tiny nonpareille (meaning 'without peer') that come from southern France. Capers range in size from this especially small variety to much larger ones from Italy. Morocco is the largest commercial producer today.

A new variety of capers from Spain is emerging on the market as "caperberries." The smaller the better has long been a mantra with capers but these caperberries are the size of olives. Packed with the stem intact, they are an elegant addition to a buffet with roasted fowl or poached fish.

 How do I use capers?


Capers can be used in a variety of sauces, salads and meat or fish dishes. They lend a mild peppery, pickled taste when added to a recipe or served along side as a garnish.

You should rinse capers before using to wash away any saltiness. You may wish to coarsely chop the larger varieties but this really isn't necessary.

Experiment with capers in their various sizes and in different recipes to decide what you like the best. You might add them to tuna salad or try sprinkling a few capers on your next pizza. Or add them to a chunky tomato sauce and serve it over fish.

Check the indexes of your cookbooks for other uses. Look especially for tapenade, a pungent spread made of capers, olives and anchovies. Also look for recipes that call for capers such as mustard sauces or mayonnaise variations.

Or try the following recipe inspired by a salad I had at the local Macaroni Grill. It's a great combination that will improve after a day or two in the refrigerator, if it lasts that long.

Shrimp and Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing

6 ounces spinach leaves, well-washed and torn into small pieces

12 sun-dried tomato halves, cut into thin strips

4 green onions, sliced 2 inches into green part

1/4 cup small capers, rinsed

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1 pound cooked shrimp (grilled is especially nice)

Shaved Parmesan cheese

Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing, recipe follows

Combine all ingredients except the cheese and dressing in a large salad bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently but well. Sprinkle with cheese and serve right away.

Yield: Four generous servings

Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing

1 lemon, zested then juiced

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

Plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shake all ingredients in a small jar with a lid. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Makes about 2/3 cup dressing.


Search this site


  back to top


Other articles you might enjoy:

1. Sofrito Fiesta

2. Saffron Takes White Rice to Exquisite

3. Elegant Eggplant Steals the Show

4. Compound Butters Rescue Plain Foods

5. Capers Questions & Answers Page




Related Items: see all items...

 Rodale's Encyclopedia of Herbs book

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs  The old favorite from Rodale Press is redesigned and updated to be better than ever.


Gourmet Mustards book

Gourmet Mustards The subject is covered well in this newly revised and expanded guide to making and cooking with mustards.

 Herb Mixtures & Spicy Blends
A collection of over 100 recipes for making your own spice combinations gathered from spice shops and herb farms all over America.


Appetizers and Snacks with Herbs book

Deliciously Easy Appetizers and Snacks with Herbs  Check out all of the other titles too in this tiny bargain-priced series of yummy and quick herbal recipes.


Food Lover's Tiptionary book

The New Food Lover's Tiptionary  Solve your problems, settle your curiosity or just entertain yourself with this collection of over 6000 kitchen wisdom nuggets.



privacy policy

 Copyright 1999-2013  A Pinch Of...  All rights reserved