A few years ago when I went to Amsterdam on holiday, I tried green elderberry capers for the first time. I have been gathering and eating elderberries, practically my whole life, but I had never preserved the green berries, nor had anyone in my family. In fact, on those hot summer days when my step mother would round us up in the maroon volvo to pick along the highway between Massachusetts and Vermont, she made sure to tell us NOT to pick the green ones as they would make us feel nauseous. That was pretty much it for me with the green ones until Amsterdam. Ripe berries and flowers are edible, but other parts of the plant (raw bark, root, and leaves) and unripe berries are poisonous, containing toxic calcium oxalate crystals. if you cook or pickle or salt cure, it will detoxify the berry and render it edible.
In a restaurant I spied a small jar of berries in salt. The chef was kind enough to tell me that they were not traditional capers but elderberry, gathered just a few steps away in the park. They had washed and mixed them into a big jar of Kosher salt where they sit in a cold darkened place for a few months.
It was the fall when I was there, so I made a mental note to get right on it the next time June rolled around, which I did last year. I let the elderberry capers sit in the salt all winter. I now have a sweet little jar of elderberry capers.
Now if you are a caper lover, as I am. You might know that there are different ways of preserving capers. Some capers are preserved in Vinegar others in a dry salt. I prefer the salted capers like those from Pantelleria. I find the pickled capers to taste too much of vinegar.
I am still researching the various methods of preserving, and have seen that some have even lacto fermented the green elderberry. For now I am only going to share the salted version.
If you do a little research you can find many different methods and salt and vinegar solutions for your recipes. Look at the Bar Tartine book, they have a nice caper section.
GREEN ELDERBERRY CAPERS
2 cups gathered green elderberries. Washed and dried.
2 cups of kosher salt.
Combine together in a mason jar. Label with the date.
Seal and leave in a cool dark place for three months.
Once they are ready I transferred the jar to my refrigerator where they keep for up to one year.
Use as you would any caper.
To use rinse before using.
They will have a salty floral quality.
What to use them for? Just about anything.
At Restaurant As in Amsterdam, I had them with Whitefish from the North Sea. They can be used any way you use traditional capers. I like them with scrambled eggs and herbs or on a mushroom pizza with a nice sharp cheese. They are good with a grain and radishes in an egg bowl, just let your imagination roll. I will try to post some recipe photos soon, but in the mean time do not miss the chance to gather some berries. The time is now and the season is short. Do try to remember to leave some for the birds and some to ripen You will want to gather them later for jelly and a good winter tonic!
a bit about As
Most of Amsterdam’s best restaurants aren’t in the middle of the city—the warm, inviting As, for example, is on the border of Beatrixpark, a leafy, peaceful green space in the Zuideramstel neighborhood, which is known for its pretty bridges arching over the canals. Here, the salads and side dishes consist of tubers, mushrooms, watercress, and wild berries foraged from Beatrixpark, while the bevy of chickens running around the restaurant’s backyard supply the eggs. My favorite plates were a whitefish from the North Sea with wild elderberry capers, and a house-cured charcuterie board with local Dutch cheeses (Prinses Irenestraat 19; 31-20-644-0100; prix fixes from $54 for three courses).