Sunday, July 12, 2009
Nonna's Pickled Eggplant (Melanzane Sott'olio)
Before reading or trying this recipe, please read the FDA article, http://www.enotalone.com/article/10280.html 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! :-)