Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nonna's Pickled Eggplant (Melanzane Sott'olio)

Before reading or trying this recipe, please read the FDA article, and do a search on garlic + oil + botulism. Educate yourself!

While I can state that my family has used the following recipe for generations, and never had a problem, I am not a medical professional, nor a scientist, so I can't explain why we've never encountered botulism. Could it be the fact that we refrigerate the product soon after preparing, or the acidic vinegar (long known as a preservative) in the recipe, or the fact that our family always has a braid of well-dried garlic hanging the kitchen for use, or just plain luck? I have no idea... All I can say is do your research, read what's been said, follow directions exactly for preserving, and if you're still not comfortable - DON'T TRY THIS RECIPE! Believe me, I won't be offended, we all have our own comfort levels.

That being said...

This recipe is probably my favorite one of Nonna's, and it was passed down to her from generations before. It was lost to me for several years after she passed away, but with some research and tweaking, I've managed to replicate it exactly to my childhood memories!

Nonna's Pickled Eggplant

3/4 lb eggplant (Chinese eggplant is my favorite, but any variety will work - remember, smaller is better!)

Coarse Kosher Salt

3/4 cup (give or take) white vinegar

about 1 and 1/2 cups water (2:1 ratio with vinegar)

4 medium garlic cloves, peeled, washed, and dried well

1 TBL fresh basil, minced

1 tsp fresh oregano, minced

1 tsp dried red pepper flakes (or 1 small whole dried cayenne pepper, crushed)

High quality extra virgin olive oil

Sterilized jar, of a size to barely fit your eggplant strips (8 oz, maybe?)

Trim ends from eggplant, and peel. Slice horizontally, turn, slice horizontally again, and then vertically into 2 in strips. I know this may be confusing, sorry - what you want are strips the size of short shoestring french fries.

Place your strips in a non-metal colander, sprinkle with coarse Kosher salt, and toss well. Place colander over bowl, or in sink, covered with a double layer of paper towels, for 30 min. This allows the eggplant to 'sweat', removing excess moisture and bitterness (bitterness is not usually a problem with small eggplants).

Rinse eggplant strips well with cold water, drain, and pat dry well with paper towels.

Combine vinegar and water in a non reactive saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil. Add eggplant, and boil for 2-3 minutes.

Pour eggplant into colander, and drain well. After draining, squeeze strips between paper towels to dry. (Don't worry, that lovely vinegar 'tang' will remain)

Mix your minced fresh herbs together well.

Pour a thin layer of oil into the bottom of your sterilized jar. Add some eggplant strips, a clove of garlic, some of your herb mix, and repeat, starting with more oil. Continue until your jar is completely full, being sure the eggplant is totally covered with oil, and no 'headroom' is left. I use the handle end of a wooden spoon to 'poke', and make sure all air is removed. Seal your jar tightly, and allow to cool ONLY TO ROOM TEMP! then place in fridge.

Allow to marinate for a week, (this is the absolutely hardest part of this recipe - I want my pickled eggplant NOW!) and then enjoy!

*Your oil may solidify as a result of refrigeration, but don't worry, it's fine. Just remove pickled eggplant from fridge about 15 min before serving, and the oil will liquefy again.
**I cannot attest to the shelf life of this pickled eggplant, but I wouldn't store it more than 2 weeks (yes, even refrigerated, see safety precautions above). We don't have that problem around here - it never lasts more than a day or 2 after the marinating is over! :-)



qikiprana said...

Thank you SO much! for posting a traditional recipe sans science...I truly feel that experience, over generations, is our best teacher...

Jackrabbit said...

when you seal do you mean like as in canning sealed or just close the lid and ring?

'Chef' said...

'Seal' as in twist the ring (with lid) tightly. When you do this using proper canning jars, as the contents cool, it will cause the center of the jar (small 'bump' on the lid) to contract, making it concave, with a small 'pop' sound. Does that help?

eat a plant said...

i'm italian and have been using a very similar recipe for years (only i leave the eggplant to "sweat" for 24 hours). I can vouch for the fact that we have never had any botulism problems.

charley presley said...

Love this..I add celery for crunch and Sicilian olives too

ACG said...

Hi there, I made this to a similar recipe, except that it is not cooked, rather the eggplant is covered in salt and pressed for 24 hours, squeezed dry, covered in vinegar and pressed for 12 hours, squeezed try and then put in jars with olive oil, garlic, oregano and chilli. We eat it up to a year later and it has yet to make anyone sick. I think it has something to do with using dried herbs maybe?

KOOKAMUNGA Theatre Co. said...

It's likely because it has more time to soak up the salt and vinegar ... The salt dries it out then it soaks up the vinegar, then the oil seals out the oxygen so no bacteria can grow...