Continuing our discussion about capers, we copy below a comment posted by Gaia, where she gives an answer to a very important question we are often asked: Capers in salt or capers in something else? The short answer is: in salt, of course! Because capers in something else could be an industrial product. Here is Gaia's long version.
Why salted Cappers (as Gaia calls them) are better?
There are two different ways of preserving cappers: the first is mainly used by the industrial producers and imply that the cappers are disposed in a jar and than covered with wine vinegar when the quality is good or with an acid fluid obtained with chemical citric acid, when the quality is poorer, meaning most of the time. Goes without saying it that this is not the proper way to taste cappers. What happens is that the acid element alters the true taste and is very hard to remove the acidity from the capper.
On the other hand when the capper is salted you can easily remove the salt by leaving the capper in warm water for 30 min and than you will be able to taste the capper as if it was just harvested in Pantelleria…smelling all the nice flavors he brought along in his growth…
Many of the esteemed food writers we follow and adore
have been lucky enough to find themselves this late summer/early fall on
the Sicilian Island Pantelleria. Where, as one might expect, they were
swept off their collective feet by "i capperi Panteschi",
capers from Pantelleria. At Gustiamo, we have been enamored by Pantelleria's
capers since 2000 when we started importing salted capers and
"cucunci", caperberries in sea salt, from La Nicchia. La Nicchia is a brand of Pantelleria capers
produced by caper farmers who are part of the capers from Pantelleria
We could not be more pleased that so many of our favorite
foodies were able to visit La Nicchia's capperifico. There is a lot
more to caper production than one might assume. As Evan Kleiman says in
her Cappero Pantesco post, "Now that I know a mature caper plant yields 1.5
kilos a season (each picked laboriously by hand), I will never use one without
marveling at the commitment of those who labor on their knees to bring
it to us."
You can see these litte green balls of flavor being jarred
in Elizabeth Minchilli's photos in her Caper post; into the glass jars and next stop Bronx, New York!
In the end, like everything else we love, we prefer
capers from Pantelleria because the taste is unrivaled. As
Rosengarten says, "the texture is best…tight and snappy" and we agree with
Kleiman when she says, "I’ve always been partial to capers in salt
from Pantelleria, with their mild, slightly floral flavor." And,
Elizabeth, we could not agree more with your prediction for the future of hipster
pizza making with capers and crunchy capers (new product idea for
Gustiamo?), "don’t be surprised if you see them showing up on the next
designer hipster pizza you order in Brooklyn or Portland."
We love the word "vendemmia". Although there is no real translation
for this word in English. For the grape growing countrysides in Italy,
"La Vendemmia" refers to a time of year, a state of mind, and a set of
vendemmia /venˈdemmja/ (grape) harvest, vintage
The word "vendemmia" in Italian can refer to either a wine's vintage,
or, in this case, the grape harvest itself. Every Italian region and
micro-climate has its own vendemmia time. In North Western Sicily,
this week will prove to be the last week of Vendemmia.
friend who works with vines in Sicily's "Strada del Vino Alcamo Doc" region told us that he is very
positive about the 2012 vintage both from a qualitative and
One of the highlights for us from this year's Sicilian vendemmia has
been Elizabeth Minchilli's report of the zibibbo harvest in
Pantelleria. Zibbibo, the muscat grape with origins in North Africa,
is one of our favorites because of its versatility. Zibbibo jelly,
which we call Zibbibo Grape Elixir, is a Gustiamo prized Sicilian
import, from La Nicchia, in the island of Pantelleria. We love Minchilli's description more
of how she discovered Zibbibo jelly while in Pantelleria:
"As we went into the small kitchen we were hit with the perfume of what we
all thought was a pot of Ambrosia bubbling away. Instead it was yet another
use of the sweet grapes: jam. "It's a bit time consuming, since we pit each
grape", explained Diego, "And to get it right - with a minimal amount of
cooking - we can't make more than a kilo per batch. But it's worth it". Again, since the grapes start out so sweet the jam requires only about 10 to
15% sugar. Cooked for about a half hour the resulting jam is thick, almost
syrup like, with the heavy skinned grapes still perfectly intact. Sweet,
fruity and chunky."
Some of the ways that we love to eat Zibbibo Grape Gelatina (Ambrosia, Nectar, Elixir.. however you call it) is to flavor
whipped cream, yogurt, in a Prosecco Kir, drizzled over berries, in tea, with aged cheeses; or of
course, plain and simple on warm fresh bread.
I am a great fan of Taste, the trade food show that is held in Firenze, every year in March.
Where else could I meet such a large concentration of Gustiamo's producers? In one spot, for three days, we talk about future plans, prices, new products and orders... we have fun, we talk about family things and we share the most delicious gossip, too.
Our producers are our friends, we talk on the phone constantly and we love to see them in action at their places, but also at Taste, at least once a year!
The big scoop, this year, was that the Martelli family (left), announced they have chosen Gustiamo, Inc. as their only importer, in America! Wow, and thank you!!!
Anchovies enhance the flavor of every dish and bring out the character of every ingredient, without leaving a strong fishy taste! Here is a wonderful recipe of Lamb Chops cooked with anchovies and capers written by Melissa Clark in the New York Times.
She says that this dish can even be served to friends who do not like anchovies because they would not notice it.
Any confusion about what capers are? You're probably more confused when you're offered caper berries or (in Italian) cucunci? Here is ever more charming Gabriele Lasagni, from Pantelleria Island, to shed some light on the issue.
After having told us why his Pantelleria capers are the best (watch the previous video, if, God Forbid, you missed it), Gabriele explains that capers are the buds, the little things which appear before the flowers while the caper berries (Cucunci) are the fruits of the caper plant. So, if you don't pick the capers, they will become flowers, which in turn, will become caper berries. Cucunci have an oblong shape and are bigger that the capers.
You eat them in salads, as an accompaniement to cold cuts and cheeses, or with your favorite pre dinner drink [they are perfect with your Martini]. Watch the video below (click the arrow) and learn about this fantastic product!
Believe me, Pantelleria Capers are as good as Gabriele Lasagni is charming. Watch the video below and he'll make you order his capers by the truck load. Gabriele is also a perfectionist. We were in Milano, at the Tutto Food Show, ready to take one of our videos (can we call them videos? they are beyond amateurish... and need improvement!) but he said he was ashamed of his English and wanted to postpone to the following morning because he needed to rehearse in front of his mirror, at home. This is an indication of how much Gabriele cares about what he does! His English is wonderful and you'll understand perfectly the four main reasons why La Nicchia salted capers are so good: the island's lava soil give the capers their peculiar taste; the temperature range between hot days and cool nights give the capers their strong fragrance; the tradition of growing and picking capers on the island and last, but not least, the particular caper plant that grows only on Pantelleria, the cultivar spinosa nocellara. Bravissimo Gabriele, perfetto!!!
Matthew and David of the new cool Minerva cafe downtown not only want to learn everything about our products, they came to the warehouse to taste them, too! Here, from left: Martina, David, Matthew, Anne, Stefano and Kunle.
So, when you next go to Minerva, you know where the inspiration came from. If you like what you eat, ask David for the recipes. Then, because he sells those of our products he uses, you can buy Gustiamo's ingredients on the spot. All the good reasons to go to Cafe' Minerva. Let us know what you think!
Please, send us all your comments, bad or good. In his comments, Steven just told us he loved all our products but our olive oil was too expensive. He prefers another one at half the price! This is what we found out about his preferred olive oil! Read the post, here.
On the other hand, he loved everything else. Below is what he writes:
Lentils (organic lentils from Umbria): probably the best lentils I've ever had. Prior to eating your lentils we used to schlep all over the city to find Lentils de Puy, which are not nearly as toothsome as the Umbrian ones. Nice size package as well.
Capers in salt, from Pantelleria--I would swim from Sicily to get these. Outstanding. The price is irrelevant.
Pesto--Genovese from Liguria--this was so good we had to wave good bye to the jar when we finished it. Again, in these months we make our stuff fresh because of the farmer's market but I would gladly order again. At $30 I 'd say this was well worth the price.
Dried Pasta--can't remember the name but it was in a red box, 500 grams, and was excellent. We used it to make pasta con le vongole and it held its own and did not get lost in the sauce. It is the texture that is so outstanding. I am ordering the orecchiette now.
The other day, Patrick, a customer/friend of ours for a long time, asked me how much salt there was in our salted capers. Patrick is always very thorough and asks lots of questions. In this case, I thought he was joking. I replied that I had no idea, the label on the jar doesn't say anything, it only mentions the ingredients: capers and salt (I would have added, sunshine). I replied there must be as much salt as Gianni, the producer, thinks is best to conserve the capers. I didn't have much time, I needed to go, but he was relentless and became unfriendly. He said consumers need to know what is the salt content of every product. (But why, don't you rinse the capers, before you use them? And how many capers could you eat, that their salt could cause a heart attack?). All the other merchants had replied to him (shame on me, who didn't know!), saying the salt content in their capers was between 10 and 20%. I was so impressed by how much people know... Still, I had to go. Then, Patrick threatens me and says that if I didn't give him the information, he would report us to the FDA. I was not worried about the FDA (in fact, we had been importing these same capers for ten years without any problems), I was worried he was really getting upset. So I emailed Gianni Busetta, the man in Pantelleria who grows, picks and salts the capers. He replied immediately and didn't think it was stupid question. He said his capers are IGP (Indicazione di Origine Protetta) and that, by law, the salt content has to be 25%.
Moral of the story: I apologize to Patrick for not knowing the answer but I am also very happy to find out that only Gustiamo carries the authentic IGP Pantelleria capers. Thank you Patrick!