Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Capers in the Co-Op

Capers It was the small print in an old advertisement for CWS preserves and pickles that got me thinking. For there in the list of 1926 amidst the chutneys, piccalilli, strawberry jam and etc was CWS capers. The advert is in a earlier post.

Most people in Britain haven't a clue about capers. Is it a fish? For those of you who don't know capers are small, dark green flower buds from Mediterranean countries. They are preserved usually in vinegar, sometimes in olive oil though the best way is in sea salt crystals. The fruit or berries of the caper bush is also available, about the size of an olive, full of tiny seeds and preserved in vinegar.

Yet they have been around since Samuel Pepys was burying his block of Parmesan in the garden to save it from the Great Fire of London. That was on Saturday 4th September 1666 according to his diaries. Those tasty savouries of capers, anchovies and Parmesan were imported for the wealthy to liven up plain fare.
So what why were the CWS supplying capers back in the 1920's? Was caper sauce the favoured accompaniment for fish on the estates of Chorlton? Perhaps people were creating there own tartare sauce too, because capers are one of the ingredients in that.

Somehow I don't think so. Nowadays you can easily obtain capers at several shops in the district. But apparently not at Hardy Lane store nor the other local co-op branches. Piccalilli, olives, picked shallots, gherkins & etc on the shelves. But no capers. They also don't appear very often on a list of extra toppings from the take away pizza shops. Essentially the UK hasn't taken to capers in a big way. None of this answers my question. Why were the CWS supplying capers back in the 1920's? In the meantime you could look up a recipe for spaghetti alla puttanesca and track down some capers to make the sauce.You won't be disappointed.

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