I Bought a Gigantic Jar of Capers. Now What?

Almost everything tastes better with capers.

Published July 1, 2021.

Nora Ephron (may you rest in peace), you lied to me.

I was young and learning to cook, and in your 1983 novel Heartburn, you completely misled me about capers.

Long before I knew I was going to be a food writer, Ephron’s heroine, Rachel Samstat, was a cookbook writer who recounts an assignment to develop recipes using capers:

“It was weeks of tossing capers into just about everything but milkshakes before I came to terms with the fact that nobody really likes capers no matter what you do with them. Some people pretend to like capers, but the truth is that any dish that tastes good with capers in it tastes even better with capers not in it.”

I was young and impressionable. I believed her.

I still keep a paperback copy of Heartburn in my kitchen because the book has so much wisdom, including a fabulous rendition of Potatoes Anna. And for 38 years, I’ve mostly skipped those test-tube-size bottles of capers.

Then, this year, I bought a really big jar of capers at Costco: a 32-ounce jar (that’s 2 pounds of capers!) for $6.59. I bought the capers because even though I’m older and wiser, I’m still impressionable. I saw an online story claiming the giant jar of capers they sell at Costco was a great deal, the world was going into quarantine, and we all needed cooking help.

And now I’ve finally learned that a lot of dishes taste better with capers:

Heartburn ends with Rachel Samstat’s perfect vinaigrette. Making it with caper oil might be the perfect revenge.

Which Capers Won Our Taste Test?

Capers are one of the test kitchen’s favorite stealthy ingredients. Both salty and lightly acidic, these small buds make the butter and lemon sing in chicken piccata and highlight the nutty, sweet garlic flavor in pasta puttanesca. Which brand was our favorite?  

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