You can what? Did I hear you correctly? Make your own capers?
I recently earned my Master Certificate in Preservation—a credential I am tickled about. In a nutshell (or should I say ‘in a jar’?) it means I have the ‘creds’ to teach home canning and preservation. And this doesn’t mean just hot water bath canning and jam-making. I will be sharing with you a plethora of recipes and ideas for dehydrating and freezing, small-batch preservation, pressure canning, curing, pickling and fermenting. (If you are in Seattle, you can ping me for a private, hands-on class).
It was an off-handed mention from another class participant: you can use nasturtium pods to make your own capers. Also known as ‘California Capers’ (some folks prefer them to traditional capers). I could NOT have been happier.
I debated growing nasturtiums [again] this season because the very thought of colonies of black aphids gnawing on them made me cringe. But I had kept some pods and decided to pop them into the ground. For the bees… and so my salads would be speckled with bright orange, red and yellow blossoms. As a farmer I constantly learn and decide: put it in, take it out, rotate crops, how to deal with slugs, what to plant for ‘over-wintering’, when to harvest garlic and more. I love it. And that is just in the planting and growing end of things.
As a chef half the fun comes in deciding what to do with all that yummy homegrown food. I love discovering how to ‘treat each food best.’ In other words: shall I pickle, can, dry or freeze the rhubarb? For apples: I can choose to make jelly or applesauce, pie or dried cinnamon sugar ‘chips’. With nasturtiums it was sheer joy to find out I could not only 1. use the flowers in my salad but 2. dry them and pulverize them for a peppery seasoning, and 3. use the seed pods to pickle my own capers.
I pick the flowers to eat fresh and dry for later, then leave some of the flowers to die on the vine—and consequently turn into pods. Once they have turned to pods, I pluck them off the stems and turn them into salty, pickled capers. (FYI if the pods are brown or have fallen to the ground, keep them for next year’s planting—you don’t want to pickle brown pods).
Pickled Nasturtium Pods
1 pint green nasturtium pods
3 cups water
4 1/2 tablespoons pickling OR kosher salt (pickling and kosher salts are more pure than table salts—they don’t have anti-caking additives)
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
Pick your pods and give them a quick rinse. Remove flowers bits and extra stems. Place in a jar or glass container with 1 cup water and 1 1/2 T salt (to cover). Let them stand at room temp, uncovered for 24 hours.
Yes it starts to stink. Think sulfur or rotten eggs. ITS OKAY. Just giggle or blame someone passing by—teenage boys are a great target. Drain and rinse pods, picking out any little flower bits or debris. Put in clean jar/container and cover with a cup of water and 1 1/2 T of the salt. Let stand for another day.
Repeat rinsing and brining process a third time. Let stand again.
1. Drain and rinse the pods and put them into jars (I used quarter pint jars).
2. Place a bay leaf and sprig of thyme in each jar.
3. Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small pan. Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the pods.
4. Process in water-bath canner for 10 minutes (1/2 inch head space).
Yields 4 quarter-pint jars.