Local Capers – a budding industry
While I try to buy Australian or local Victorian food products sometimes it is hard to get an equivalent in quality or price. This can be because local production is still in its infancy and cannot compete with imports. Think back to when Australia just started to produce olive oil and you could only get little bottles for a premium price. Fast forward to today and you see not only premium quality extra virgin olive oil in small bottles but also 3 litre tins of the local stuff priced competitively with Italian, Spanish and Greek extra virgin olive oils. In addition to the great value now you also have the knowledge that what you are getting is genuine EVOO with a harvest date to gauge freshness. In contrast, caper growing here is still small and aiming at the premium market. Two local producers are Gavarnie in the Victorian Pyrenees (not the Spanish one) and Long Lane Capers near Mansfield. Long Lane capers can be bought salted or in brine from farmers markets in the high country region but also from Key Ingredients, Clifton Hill and Gavarnie at various food stores around Melbourne. The price is very high at $17 for a 80 g jar for Long Lane. I am sure this will change with time. If you use capers frequently in your cooking like I do and want salted capers then I recommend the Spanish brand Figaro (935 g jar for $22), available at Casa Iberica, Fitzroy. Capers are actually the small flower buds of a Mediterranean bush and feature in Sicilian fish dishes, caponata, remoulade (see recipe tab), tartar sauce, pastas, salads, including Cypriot grain salad and are an essential ingredient of a smoked salmon bagel. The salted capers have a better flavour than those packed in brine and store well in the pantry but remember to rinse salted capers well under the tap before use.