I’m very excited to see the first flowers on my eggplant (aubergine) bush. I lovingly tended this plant from seed, to seedling, to small bush. Now, the first flowers! Let’s hope the fruit sets. These eggplants are an heirloom variety that I bought when I went along to an Heirloom Vegetable workshop late last year. Pickled eggplant is perfect on a mezze platter or as part of a salad.
Eggplants All Year Round
It’s going to be quite some time until I see some fruit on my plants so in the mean time, I’ve taken the opportunity to preserve some eggplants that I got cheap. I’ve adapted a recipe from Karen Martini that I ripped out of a newspaper on a recent flight from somewhere to somewhere else. In the ‘olden days’, preserving was used as a way of ensuring that the glut of Summer fruits and vegetables could made available during the long, lean Winter months. Living in Brisbane means long growing seasons. There’s not really a winter as such, with warm sunny days and mild nights. That’s why I’m able to grow eggplant at this time of year – still plenty of insect activity, sunshine and warmth.
This is a very simple technique that even a novice can make. The only thing you really need is time. You don’t need to do much, there’s just a lot of waiting around. Start this process on a Friday night when you come home from work and you’ll have jars of preserved eggplant by Sunday evening. Use this eggplant on antipasto platters and to jazz up home made pizzas. This is also an unusual gift for a housewarming or at Christmas.
Melanzane Sotto Aceto e Olio
- 8 x medium eggplants
- 200g salt
- 600ml white wine vinegar
- equal amounts vegetable and olive oil to top jars (approx 600ml – 800ml)
- 4 x garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 8 x fresh bay leaves (or 4 dried)
- 1 x peeled lemon skin (not pith)
- 12 x peppercorns, cracked
- Slice the eggplant in half, place cut side down and slice each half into 1cm slices. You can peel the eggplant but I leave the skin on.
- Cut the slices into 1 cm strips.
- Place eggplant into a bowl, toss well with salt and place into a colander.
- Weigh down eggplant with a plate and weight (800g tinned tomatoes works a treat) and leave overnight to drain. The eggplant will lose quite a lot of water so sit the colander in the sink or a large bowl.
- The next morning, rinse the eggplant very well in cold water. Give it a couple of changes of water so that most of the salt is washed away.
- Squeeze out excess moisture well and place in a bowl with vinegar.
- Cover with a plate to keep eggplant submerged. Soak for at least 12 hours or until the next morning.
- Drain the vinegar off, squeezing out the excess until the eggplant is quite compressed.
- Place garlic cloves, bay leaves, lemon peel and peppercorns in a saucepan with 600ml of blended oil and gently heat. The oil does not to be boiling or even very hot. Just warmed through to release some of the flavours from the botanicals. Set aside
- Give the eggplant a shake and separate the strands. Firmly pack into sterilised jars and pour warmed oil over the eggplant.
- Wiggle the eggplants in the jar, using a cake tester. This allows trapped air bubbles to be released. Giving the jars a gentle tap on the bench will also assist in dislodging air bubbles.
- Use extra unheated oil to top up jars if necessary.
- Seal jars tightly and store in dark cupboard for two weeks. Store in fridge after opening
- Whilst the vinegar has ‘cooked’ the eggplant, this is not a cooked or heat processed dish. You can not store this indefinitely in the cupboard like you can with other chutneys and relishes. Enjoy it sooner rather than later and make another batch!
- This seems like a lot of eggplant at the start but trust me, by the time you’ve salted and pickled them, it only makes 3 jars. You may as well make a full batch if you’re going to the trouble.
- The original recipe called for the addition of sliced banana peppers and a couple of split chillies. As I had none to hand, I substituted the bay and lemon peel. Thyme would also make a good addition.
- The vinegar drained off the eggplant can be re-used in dressings or salads – there’ll just be a few eggplant seeds floating about.