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jar of pickled eggplant with fork and crostini on side
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Italian Pickled Eggplant

Italian Pickled Eggplant, don't let the process intimidate you! Prepare authentic homemade pickled eggplant that doesnt' compare to store bought and serve as antipasto, in sandwiches or even on pizza. Deliciously flavored with garlic, dry red chilis, oregano and fennel seeds just like my mom makes!
Course antipasto
Cuisine Sicilian-Italian
Keyword Italian pickled eggplant with garlic, red chili pepper and oregano
Prep Time 2 days 6 hours
Servings 3 500 ml jars
Calories 2360kcal

Equipment

  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Non reactive bowls: ceramic, glass, or stoneware are fine
  • Colanders
  • Salad plates
  • Heavy object: large tomato can; large plastic bottle of oil or vinegar; stones
  • Jars: 3 -500 ml jar or the equivalent
  • Fork: to press down on the eggplant when placing in jars

Ingredients

  • 5 kg eggplant (or 11 lbs) I used 8 of the common globe variety
  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups vegetable oil or any other neutral flavored oil such as sunflower or canola, plus more for topping jars
  • 3 garlic cloves slivered
  • 1 -2 dried hot chilis or more according to taste
  • 2 tbsp dry oregano
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds

Instructions

  • Please note that due to the large amount of eggplant, I divided the cut eggplant strips into 2 bowls and each step outlined below is repeated with each bowl.

Day 1 - Salt the eggplant

  • Wash eggplant and dry well. Remove some of the peel. We removed strips of peel and left about half of it on. This is really a question of preference, you can remove all of it, none or half as we did. 
  • Slice each eggplant into approximately 1 cm rounds and then into matchsticks of about 3/4 cm.
    Place in 2 large non reactive bowls adding course salt in between layers of eggplant.
  • Place a dinner plate over the eggplant strips and weigh the plate down with a heavy object of your choice. This can range from a large heavy can, a full bottle of oil or vinegar (in a plastic bottle!) or I happen to have a few paving stones handy that I later covered in a plastic bag. Let sit on your counter for 24 hours. After a few hours I switched to a salad plate as you need the weight of the heavy object to press down on the eggplant.

Day 2 - Stir in vinegar

  • After 24 hours, a dark colored water will surround the eggplant strips and they will have greatly reduced in volume. The salt in the eggplant draws out the water and bitter juices from the eggplant. This is what you are looking for.
  • Drain the eggplant in a large colander. Place the colander over a bowl and once again, place a plate over the eggplant and weigh it down with your heavy object. This is to squeeze out as much of the water as possible.
  • After 2 or 3 hours, transfer the eggplant back to your large bowl and stir in white vinegar, (dividing the amount specified between both bowls.) Once again, place your plate over them and weigh them down for another 24 hours.

Day 3 - Place in jars

  • You're now ready to place your eggplant in jars. Sterilize your jars and lids following the easy method outlined here. I used 3 -500 ml jars.
  • Drain the eggplant strips in your colander and as you did the previous day and weigh them down once again for 2-3 hours to drain the vinegar. Next, squeeze out as much water as possible by taking a handful of eggplant strips at a time and squeezing them with your hands. You'll be surprised to see how much more liquid comes out of them!
  • Place the squeezed eggplant back in your bowl. Toss with oil; slivered garlic; dried chili pepper torn into small pieces; dry oregano and, if desired, a few fennel seeds. Once again the ingredients listed are divided between both bowls.
  • Drizzle a little oil at the bottom of each jar to coat it. Begin packing in the eggplant strips using a fork and pressing down firmly to pack the eggplant in as tightly as possible. Continue until you reach approximately 2.5 cm below the top of the jar.
  • Pour in enough oil to cover the eggplant but not too much so that the oil reaches the lid. Place the lid on the jar, but not too tightly yet. Let the jars sit for a few hours and if you notice they have absorbed more oil and are no longer completely covered with oil, remove the lid and pour in extra oil. Now place the lid on tightly. Continue with the other jars.
  • See notes below for storage methods.

Notes

  • This recipe will work well with just about any type of eggplant. Just be sure to look for fresh eggplants that are firm and are not wrinkly.
  • Vary the flavoring ingredients: mint, basil, or parsley are a few suggestions.
  • My mother uses a neutral flavored oil such as vegetable oil (canola or sunflower oil are other options) since olive oil solidifies when refrigerated. But you can use olive oil if you prefer.
  • The eggplant is ready to eat right away, however it is best enjoyed after at least a month when the flavors have had time to mingle and the eggplant becomes increasingly tender.
  • This recipe makes 3 -500 ml jars (16 ounces or 2 cups), but if you find it difficult to consume such a large quantity once refrigerated, try using 6 -250 ml jars instead.
  • The recipe may also be halved to fill 3 -250 ml jars.
Here are a few options on how to store your pickled eggplant:
  • Store in a dark cool place for up to 6 months making sure that they are always covered in the oil. 
  • If you are concerned with long term storage and spoilage and you have the space, you may keep the jars in your refrigerator. Since this recipe uses vegetable oil instead of olive oil, it will not solidify in the refrigerator.
  • Finally, if you absolutely want to be on the safe side, seal the jars in a water bath as described here.
  • Once the jar is opened, store in the refrigerator and continue to top the eggplant with oil if not completely covered.

Nutrition

Calories: 2360kcal | Carbohydrates: 102g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 221g | Saturated Fat: 178g | Sodium: 75490mg | Potassium: 3909mg | Fiber: 52g | Sugar: 59g | Vitamin A: 440IU | Vitamin C: 38mg | Calcium: 287mg | Iron: 6mg