Early spring means plentiful foraging. Dandelions are among the first wild edibles of the season and are easily recognized by the majority of people. The entire plant is edible and has so many uses.
Dandelion is incredibly good for you with many health benefits and medicinal uses.
Have you ever eaten capers? Capers are pickled flower buds, usually from the caper bush, capparis spinosa. The smallest most immature buds, called nonpareil (meaning without equal or unparalled), are most prized. The tiny salted, pickled capers pack big flavor and can be used sparingly in salads and other dishes in the same manner you’d use olives.
For my first caper caper this year, I harvested enough immature dandelion buds to fill a one pint jar. Once prepped, this made for a half pint jar of capers.
You want the buds that are at ground level and have no stem. Look deep in the center of the plants.
Once you’ve finished harvesting, remove the sepals. This is easier than it may seem, but time consuming none the less. I spent 2 hours removing sepals (including a couple short breaks)! I want the best possible product so I find it worth the time. If you don’t; just leave them on.:) More sepals left on the buds makes for a more bitter caper.
You’ll get some decent staining on your fingers! Don’t get a manicure first.:)
Make sure you have enough to fill your jar. I used a half pint mason jar.
Once the sepals are removed, and any over mature buds discarded, place buds in a bowl of ice water for at least 2 hours, or as long as 24 hours.
This helps to mellow any bitter flavors. While soaking, a few more sepals may open up, pluck them off if you like.
A longer soak time will also help to keep the buds from floating in the brine later.
Drain the water and spread buds over a clean dry towel. Sprinkle the buds with 1/2 tsp. sea or kosher salt and fold towel over to cover. Allow to dry.
While buds are drying, sterilize your jar and lid.
Bring 1 1/8 cups of distilled white vinegar to a boil with 1 tbsp. of sea or kosher salt, stir to dissolve salt. The vinegar will cloud temporarily. Once heated it should be clear.
Be sure to use vinegar that is at least 5% acetic acid, a ‘pickling’ vinegar can be found at 7% if you prefer a more sour flavor.
Alternatively, use half vinegar and half water using the same process. *** After reading many pages supporting the idea of using half vinegar and half water in this process, I still do not feel 100% comfortable recommending this as I am not a biochemistry expert. My research also tells me that many people writing articles about the safety factors of pickling are not biochemists either;). According to my research it is perfectly safe, but use your own discretion. I always use pure vinegar, and my instinct is to stick with that.
Allow vinegar to cool for 20 – 30 minutes.
Add 10 – 20 peppercorns to your jar. 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds would be a nice addition as well.
Fill the jar with the dandelion buds and gently pack into jar. Pour cooled vinegar over the buds to the brim of the jar. Use a toothpick to jostle air bubbles up and out of jar.
Place 3 – 4 bay leaves on top.
Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap to protect metal lid from acid corrosion (from the vinegar) or use a plastic lid. Peanut butter jar lids sometimes fit mason jars. Place lid on jar and seal with ring.
Leave in a cool dark place for 1 – 6 weeks before using. Wait at least 4 weeks for the best flavor.
Once ready, chill in fridge a few hours before serving.
Capers can be heat processed in a water bath for 10 minutes, but the heat will make for softer capers.