Sunday, September 6, 2009

Eggplant Preserved in Oil

Eggplant ready to be preserved in olive oil and spices.

I have made this recipe several times and L-O-V-E it. It's a *bit* of trouble, but mostly passive waiting time, and is a great way to use up quite a bit of eggplant in one fell swoop (read: eggplants for $1 each at the farmer's market and I couldn't resist)...and you also get a bonus out of this recipe: flavored dipping oil (due to the large quantity of olive oil required). The finished product makes an excellent pizza topping, pasta or salad add-in, or can simply be placed on top of toasted bruschetta (with a little goat cheese, too). You can also mash or puree the eggplant and some of the oil and additional salt and pepper together to make a quick dip. I suggest dried herbs and garlic as fresh ones can often lead to premature spoilage; feel free to adjust the herbs/spices to suit your taste. It is also very important to make sure as much excess water is expressed from the eggplant (NOTE: if you decide to roast or broil the eggplant, don't let the "dry" appearance fool you...let cool and squeeze with a clean towel.) I have had jars of this last over a year, but I suggest 3-6 months in a cool, dark place for optimum quality.
  • 4 lbs eggplant
  • 6 Tbs cider, wine or balsamic vinegar*
  • 2-4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil (approx 4 cups)
Trim eggplant of stem and blossom end and rinse well; you can peel the skin off at this point, but the end product will be much softer and probably even disintegrate quite a bit--the skin actually becomes rather soft so I always leave it on. Slice or cube (I prefer slices as they can be left whole or chopped up later on). Layer in a large bowl or pan, and sprinkle layers liberally with salt. Let sit at least 2 hours or overnight. Blanch eggplant for 2-3 minutes in boiling water (alternatively, roast or broil at 450 deg. F for 6-8 minutes on each side, careful not to burn). Drain in colander and press or squeeze out as much excess moisture as possible. One good way to do this is set a plate on top of the eggplant and weight it down with something heavy, a stack of bowls, a jug of juice, but also press down on it; alternatively, squeeze COOLED eggplant pieces in a clean tea towel (not your nicest one, though, as it will stain).

*This is merely a flavor preference, although the balsamic will definitely darken the final product more than the other options.

In a large bowl, combine vinegar and spices. Toss drained eggplant pieces in vinegar mixture to coat. Spoon into sterilized jars (do not pack!), leaving 1/2-inch headspace (note: these do NOT have to be sealing canning jars). Pour olive oil over eggplant to cover by 1/4-inch. Carefully slide a butter knife along the edges of the jars, pressing inward gently, to release any air bubbles.
After eggplant has cooled, place lids on jars and leave jars in the sun for 10-12 days, shaking gently each day to distribute the flavorings.
Finished prodcut used as a pizza topping with artichoke hearts and onions.


Jackie at said...

I love it. My husband's grandma taught me how to make this. It's so easy and flavorful. Perfect for making ajvar!

Lydia said...

Yum! Love ajvar! I'll have to remember that next time I have a bunch of red peppers to use up! Thanks for visiting!

Anonymous said...

How do you store these after the 10 days and how long would they last thank you

Lydia said...

After the curing process, you can leave them in a cool, dark place for up to a year, unopened. Once you open them, you can keep them unrefrigerated for up to 1 month as long as the eggplant remains completely covered in oil (top off periodically if needed). Or you can store them indefinitely in the refrigerator. The longer you store the eggplant, however, the softer it gets, which may or may not be desirable to you.

When2Stop said...

Why should you not pack them? I did this by accident as I missed that last instruction... I'll probably be eating it soon enough that it hopefully won't matter too much as I'm testing with just one eggplant. Wish I could find $1 eggplants!!

Lydia said...

@When2Stop - you should not pack them firmly because it will limit the amount of oil that can coat the eggplant pieces, and potentially trapping air, which could lead to more rapid spoilage. A little gentle packing is fine, so long as you make sure all the pieces are coated in oil and no air bubbles remain. I hope you enjoy!

Unknown said...

Once they are sliced and salted are they to sit out for the 2 hrs. or do you put them in the fridge?

Lydia said...

@Dan Brown - it doesn't really matter if you put them in the fridge or not, although I would suspect that refrigerating them might slow the process of the salt drawing out the water, which is the goal, but that is just a guess. I typically leave them out to sit on the counter.