Pickling is a great way to use up my excess homegrown eggplant, as the quantity processes right down to comparatively small and manageable quantities. This pickle can to be eaten with roasted Mediterranean vegetables, with cheese, salads, and will be the star of any antipasta platter.
The recipe was given to me by Kara during a visit from Brisbane, and was handed to her by her Sicilian neighbour. Rod and Kara have progressed from being fairly uninterested in eating eggplant to raving about the variety of dishes that their neighbour can create with his homegrown eggplant, including this pickle. Sicilian pickled eggplant on toast for breakfast? I am not sure about that, but apparently Rod is hooked.
I like to use smaller eggplant if possible as they seem much crisper, less bitter, and easier to work with, but of course you will need more. The size probably doesn't really matter though with this pickle given the processes involved.
Adjust the amount of garlic and herbs according to your tastes, but remember that they will be actively flavouring your pickle beautifully whilst marinating in the refrigerator. If you can acquire some fresh garlic from the markets, and it has recently been harvested all over the country, that will be a bonus.
6 large or 12 small eggplants,
2 litres vinegar
4 large cloves of very fresh garlic
4 red chillies (or 2 if using the large red ones)
Preparing the eggplant for pickling:
Peel them, top and tail them, and slice them lengthwise thinly. Salt the slices to remove the liquid and press over night. The ideal way to press them is to place the slices between boards covered with kitchen wrap and weigh them down with bricks. This time I layered them between cutting boards and weighed them down with heavy dishes and books in my kitchen, whatever you have to apply maximum weight. The eggplant needs to be very thin with all the brown juices removed. Some seeds might even pop out in the process.
Place 4 small pickling bottles in the oven at 120 deg. for 20 minutes to sterilise, ready for bottling.
Remember to remove the lids and place bottles and lids in separately, not touching.
Pickling the eggplant slices:
- Remove the eggplant from the boards.
- Finely chop garlic, chillies, and herbs and set aside.
- Boil the vinegar in a large saucepan and reduce to a simmer.
- Place the eggplant in the vinegar to coat.
- Remove eggplant slices and drain and squeeze tightly. ( I use thin plastic gloves for this process, and squeeze them between clean tea towels in a few batches.) The squeezing is very therapeutic, and the eggplant flesh is firm enough to maintain it's texture. Believe me, it needs a really good squeeze to remove the last traces of vinegar and juices. Lots of eggplant seeds will fall out, this is fine, and can be shaken out form the tea towels quite easily. There are still plenty of seeds left.
- Mix vegetable oil, eggplant, garlic, chilli, and chopped herbs, in a medium sized bowl. Mix it up well with your hands. I used gloves because of the chillies.
- Place the pickled eggplant in your sterilised jars, squashing the mixture down as hard as you can below the rim of the jar, allowing enough room to cover the eggplant with vegetable oil.
- The idea is to minimise the amount of oil in the jar as the eggplant will absorb the flavour of the oil very easily, and I didn't want that to happen. That is also why the milder vegetable oil is used instead of olive oil.
- Seal and keep jars in the refrigerator and eat within a couple of weeks.