Today we’re talking about capers from Pantelleria, tiny but very rich in flavour. But there’s more, we’ll also...
Capers, what a taste!
Today we’re talking about capers, symbols of Mediterranean cuisine with ancient roots. Capers are already mentioned in the Bible and in the writings of Aristotle and they’re so good they’re still talked about today!
But how do you grow capers? How do you store them? And how do you use them in the kitchen? Let’s talk about all this - and much more - below.
Buds (and more) to taste
Capers are buds, which means flowers that have not yet hatched. The harvest must be fast, because the caper is actually a caper for a very short time. If the flower has slightly opened, it is no longer possible to collect it.
As soon as the flower blooms it generates a fruit, the caper berry, which is equally delicious but less known outside Sicily and the native Pantelleria.
Caper berries are smooth, much larger than the caper, have a tapered shape and are full of seedlings. The taste is similar to capers, but slightly less savory and more bitter. They are preserved in oil and are perfect as an appetizer, but also for the preparation of sauces and gravies.
To sum up both the buds and fruits of this plant are exceptional, but there’s even more. That’s right, because one more thing you can eat from the caper plant is the leaves. They’re called “tenerumi” and – unfortunately – are even less known than the berries. The reason why is a real mystery, considering how good and versatile they are.
They are pickled and are exceptional on their own in salads or even sautéed, fried or used to prepare mini rolls like the Greek dolmadakia ones, those with vine leaves.
Pantelleria, caper’s paradise
Let’s get one thing straight. Capers are exceptional, but they are certainly not all the same. Those from Pantelleria, our favourites, have the PGI brand.
Be careful though, in order to receive the PGI brand, only one of the three stages of a product (production, processing, processing) must take place in the designated area. So, in reality, there are capers from Pantelleria PGI coming from who know where that only arrive to the island for processing.
This is of course not the case of the capers from Pantelleria we selected on Italy Bite. La Nicchia’s capers were born, processed and packaged strictly in Pantelleria. “La Nicchia”, founded in 1949 to enhance the culture of Pantelleria and its land, is the only caper production farm that includes an agricultural firm throughout Pantelleria.
But why Pantelleria? What is so special about this island that we can’t find anywhere else? Pantelleria is also called the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean for its black lava flows. Volcanic soi, that is, and much more.
The climate of the island is extremely arid, it practically never rains and the winds here are quite fierce. It does not seem like the best place, but this island is a real paradise, for humans, animals and capers.
The link between the animals that inhabit the island and the caper plant is crucial. Let’s just say that lizards and geckos, called “sarmuscele” and “cucciarde tignose” by the islanders, are those mainly responsible for the capers’ dissemination.
Have you ever seen capers in a meadow? In a vegetable garden? Or on a vaguely "comfortable" ground? No, and you know why? Because geckos and lizards, greedy for capers, eat and then defecate the seeds of the plant – which are indigestible - in the most inaccessible places, like cracks between the rocks and cracks in the walls. Yes, you got it right, this delight is largely due to lizard poop!
From the plant to the jar
You can’t go wrong with La Nicchia’s capers, in each jar you’ll find the highest quality of raw materials and craft techniques for processing. But how do you recognize exceptional capers?
First of all, the size: the best capers never exceed 7mm in size. The smaller they are, the more savory and compact they are. Then the conservation method: first quality capers are preserved in oil or salt, never pickled. If the product is good, why change its taste with vinegar? Or maybe that product was not so good to begin with?
We talked about capers, caper berries and caper leaves, but if you’re a fan of intense and savory taste there are other products that you should know about. The caper salt is an absolutely brilliant invention. It is nothing but the sea salt used for the maturation, it contains the capers’ vegetation water and contains all their aroma.
Crispy capers, another delicacy by La Nicchia, are the perfect combination of traditional techniques and technological innovation. They are sun-dried and then put in a dehydrator and are perfect to add a crunchy note to any dish, as well as great to simply munch directly from the jar.
And, obviously, capers are great to make exceptional pâtés and pestos. You just have to try La Nicchia’s caper and olive pâté as well as sundried tomato and caper pâté, open the jar let yourself be taken under thePantellerian sun.
It’s worth saying that capers are simply the best! Small but full of flavour, these delicious buds are the perfect symbol of a land rich in great cultures and traditions.