When we were in Sicily this summer, one of the ingredients which I found in the market of Ortigia was capers. The region, and especially the island of Pantelleria, is famous for these little preserved flower buds, and they appear in many of Sicily’s traditional dishes. I love the saltiness of them, the way they bring a real punch to dishes. Back here in the UK, we can get capers in the shops, but they’re not nearly as good as those from the Ortigian market.
We don’t have our own home grown capers; but the allotment is awash with nasturtiums, and the seeds of this butterfly-like flower can be brined and pickled in the same way as capers to produce a good home-grown alternative. Picked whilst still green, soaked in brine, and pickled in vinegar infused with allotment herbs; these nasturtium ‘capers’ can be used like their Sicilian cousins.
You will need (Makes 2 x 115g jars)
100g nasturtium seed pods
A few peppercorns
A few herbs; I used fennel tips and a bay leaf or two
1 tsp sugar
200ml white wine vinegar
Make a brine by dissolving the salt in 300ml of water. Clean up the seeds, discarding any seeds which are yellow or brown, as these won’t be tender and full of flavour after pickling. Put the remaining seeds into a bowl and cover with the cold brine, before leaving for 24 hours. The next day drain the seed pods and dry well. Pack them into small, sterilised, jars with the peppercorns and herbs, leaving 1cm at the top so the vinegar will cover the seeds well. Bring the vinegar and sugar to the boil, then pour over the seeds and seal the jars with sterilised vinegar-proof lids. Store in a cool, dark place and leave for a few weeks before eating. Use within a year.