The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Preserving Eggplant In Olive Oil

September 3rd, 2009 · 97 Comments · Posted in garden, Recipes

Salted eggplant sheds lots of liquid prior to be sealed in olive oil

Salted eggplant sheds lots of liquid prior to being sealed in olive oil

 Thank the genius who discovered that eggplant (other things, too) can be stored almost indefinitely when covered with olive oil. My wife normally does not care for eggplant–she especially dislikes the texture–but we served this preserved eggplant at our wedding and have held a special fondness for it ever since. I like to pull out a jar with cocktails. After a few months, the eggplant slices are pleasantly leathery and oozing flavors of garlic, basil and red pepper.

The preparation is extremely kind to the cook. There are no boiling pots or canning gadgets to worry about. All you need are some jars with lids and a few basic ingredients that you no doubt have already grown in your garden.

Don’t even worry about a recipe. Simply peel your eggplant and cut it into thin squares or rectangles about 2 inches long. Toss these with plenty of salt, then set them in a colander inside a large bowl to drain for at least 12 hours. They will shed lots of liquid. At the end of that time, use your hands to  press as much remaining liquid out of the eggplant as you can.

Eggplant packed with garlic, basil and red pepper

Eggplant packed with garlic, basil and red pepper

Toss the drained eggplant with enough red wine vinegar to thoroughly coat, then set aside for 1 hour. Now pack the eggplant into pint jars, layering it with occasional leaves of basil, crushed garlic cloves and pinches of red pepper flakes. Press each layer down firmly, draining off any excess vinegar. When the jar is full, cover the contents with your favorite extra-virgin olive oil. Secure the lids on the jars and refrigerate.

Let the flavors mellow for at least a week, preferably longer. We are still eating eggplant we put away last year. Each bite reminds us of our wedding buffet.

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  • katehill

    I remember eating this ‘pickled oil-preserved’ eggplant in Italy on my first ever European adventure 25 years ago. The taste stays in my memory still; thanks for the reminder and the recipe!

  • Julia

    I’ll have to try this! I still have plenty of eggplant in the garden, but I’m a little tired of eating it right now…

  • Joanna

    Ed this is terrific … what a great recipe, I had no idea you preserve aubergine without cooking it. Can’t wait to get going


  • epr1ncesss

    This looks so yummy and I can’t wait to try it. Do you think it would work well with Chinese eggplant also?

  • Ed Bruske

    Kate, I am so glad to hear they eat this preserved eggplant in Italy. I can easily picture it on a table of hors d’oeuvres and crudite at a country trattoria.

    Julia, you bring up a very good point. Sometimes you have too much of a good thing and get tired of eating it. Preserving it for the pantry instead is a great Plan B.

    Joanna, I agree. The idea of raw aubergine isn’t obvious. But then by the time you open the jar, its been pretty well “cooked” by the intial salt and the time spent in the olive oil with all those flavorings.

    Princess, we grew two kinds of eggplant this year: Ping Tung–the long, skinny Asian variety–and Black Beauty, the more traditional eggplant. I used some of both. There’s really not much difference once you remove the skin.

  • Brianp

    What about botulism?

    Storing garlic in oil has the potential to spawn the bacteria spores that cause botulism – Clostridium botulinum.

    If stored in the fridge for short periods ( a week or two) it should be okay. But a year? Risky.

  • Ed Bruske

    Brian, thanks for pointing this out. There is always a potential for botulism with unprocessed, low-acid vegetables. But the risk with garlic in oil is so low, I think you are more likely to be struck by lightning. The last reported case, I believe, was 20 years ago. In addition, the risk you are citing refers to garlic kept in oil only. I would think that the addition of vinegar in this recipe would mitigate somewhat against the problem. All of the ingredients discussed here were grown in my garden and prepared in my kitchen. I have no worries. But if you did have a concern, do not plan on keeping this eggplant preparation longterm, or keep it in the freezer.

  • Emma

    Hi Ed,
    When you made the eggplant did you notice the oil mixture turned greenish (very vibrant green)? I am assuming the olive oil or residual vinegar extracted the chlorophyll from the basil leaves but I am not certain. I opened the jars and they smell just fine so I assume they are safe to eat. Just curious if you observed this phenomenon…

  • Rachka

    What happens if you don’t peel the eggplants?

  • Ed Bruske

    Rachka, for me, raw eggplant skin does not hold much appeal. Other than that, I don’t know what would happen. I’ve never tried it.

  • lise-anne

    I don’t have room in my refrigerators for jars of eggplant. Have you tried canning? Or do you think the freezer is a better approach? I really don’t want to freeze and think the pantry is a better destination for what looks like a super yummy preparation

  • vesna

    Thank you…Will try right now…sounds yummy…

  • Sally

    I noticed that in your photos the eggplant was not discolored like it usually does when cut. Did you use any lemon juice or citric as many freezing recipes recommend?

  • Ed Bruske

    Sally, the eggplant does oxidize a little, especially if you let it sit overnight to drain. But then it’s acidulated with the red wine vinegar.

  • Leslie Whitlock

    Ed…Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I feel like I just took a bite into Italy. I used apple cider vinegar and fresh whole hot peppers rather than cayenne flakes due to availability. What a delicious snack over toasted bread with parmesan or feta cheese….or just by itself.

  • Rebecca Moes

    Ed Thank you!
    I just made some and I forgot how much I missed my grandmother! It was like she was sitting right there with me again… I have many fond memories of the two of us sitting in her preserving shed drying, canning and soon from when I was a little girl I can close my eyes and still see the long red italian roasting peppers all strung up from the rustic rafters and the bunches of drying herbs hang there and grand ma standing at the table telling me stories of the old country…
    It is astonishing to me how muck a remembered taste can bring back.
    Thank you for this treasure, it couldn’t have come at a more needed time in life for me…
    God bless you!

  • Barbara

    i know this was first posted in 2009 but I just made it 2 weeks ago and oh my goodness it is delicious!! I live in eastern NC and have about 30 japaneses eggplants ready to pick every 2 days-way too many! We ate it the first time tonight. I sliced some good chewy bread and spread it with home made pesto and then layered it with the eggplant, fresh tomatoes and small amt of grated mozz cheese. Put it under the broiler for a few minutes and it was so good!! I will be making a ton of this for Christmas presents and for my own use. Gracias!

  • romeo alesiani

    hi everybody there,just by chance i saw your info about the eggplants[melanzane in italian],being italian myself[from rome]i can actually say something about them ,in rome or just outside where i used to live [all my family still there]we used to preserve everything more or less not having a frezer those days you had to preserve the veg or make your own canned tomatoes and the beautie of it all family used to take part,so now i live in orlando [fl]and i started to grow my own veg and the eggplant are part of it,and being a chef i make all sort of dishes so guys gave me a call and i let you some info

  • Eloise

    I don’t know what happened to mine…I had two medium eggplant that I cut into strips like my mother did many years ago. I probably put in too much salt, waaaay tooooo much, because the end product was so horribly salty and I threw out the whole container. In fact, it made me sick. The recipe called for: plenty of salt, but what does that equate to? I probably put in 1.5 cups of salt. Also, once I opened the container, the olive oil gets really funny looking – it gets thick and cloudy. How come? My mother used to just put her end product in the pantry – I never saw it in the fridge.

  • Ellie

    When leaving the eggplant to shed water, should it be left in the refrigerator for those 12 hours or simply out on the kitchen counter?

  • Ed Bruske

    Either way works, Ellie.

  • Ed Bruske

    You’re right, Eloise–the recipe doesn’t specify how much salt, exactly, because I treat this as a method more than an exact recipe, since you never know exactly how much eggplant you’ll have on hand. I don’t think I’ve ever used any where near a cup of salt for this–you just want to season the eggplant aggressively, enough to draw the liquid out.

  • Amy @ simply necessary

    Love this! Going to try it today…

    After week of refrigeration, do you still need to keep in the fridge or can you move to pantry shelf?

  • Ed Bruske

    Amy, I’ve always kept it in the fridge and taken it out as needed.

  • nicole

    20 years ago I spent time in Southern Italy with my sister and many Italian friends. One friend’s mother made this exact thing and I swear I could have eaten a whole jar by myself if it wouldn’t have made me look greedy. She spoke no English and Gigi couldn’t explain it to me, so I doubted my understanding of her explanation in Italian. So, thank you so much for this. I looked through all my books and came up with nothing that seemed right. We will be making some today.

  • Eloise

    What olive oil do you use that won’t coagulate in the fridge? Or, is it going to coagulate no matter?? I know that when I pull from fridge and let sit for 30 minutes, the olive oil appears to melt at room temperature and looks liquid again. Is this right??? Is this what yours does? Maybe my fridge setting is too high?

  • Ed Bruske

    Yes, the olive oil will go more or less solid in the fridge. When I want to use it, I just pull it out a couple of hours ahead and let it come back to room temp.

  • Ed Bruske

    This is one of the most popular recipes that has ever appeared on The Slow Cook blog, and no wonder. The result is pure magic. Best to let the flavors develop for a few months before opening. It only gets better with age–a year, two years? I’ve yet to have any go bad, but then it doesn’t usually last that long without being eaten.

  • Eloise

    Well, my third try at it – They say 3 is a charm and I am convinced that I have the information I need to make it work, thanks to you. I’ll keep you posted in a few weeks.

  • Eloise

    By the way, what is it that you serve the eggplant with???? I remember placing between bread and the olive oil from the jar. I am really interested in what you do…and thanks! How can you pretty this up more for a cocktail party?

  • Ed Bruske

    We usually serve this with a variety of our preserves and pickles displayed in small ceramics. We try to avoid bread, so very often we will display thinly sliced summer squash with fresh goat cheese and our green tomato chutney. You could use bouquets of fresh Italian parsley to display, or just sprinkle some chopped parsley over the eggplant. Or display it with some tiny baby eggplants.

  • Heidi

    The oil coagulates in the fridge :( Am I doing something wrong?

  • Jesse M

    Going to try this soon! Thanks so much for the info!!!

  • Ed Bruske

    Vegetable oil is liquid at room temperature, but wants to become more solid when you refrigerate it. It will become liquid again if you let it warm up.

  • Eloise

    Another question outside of the eggplant theme. Am looking for a pickling for cauliflower with other veggies in it. My husband’s x-mother in law, now pass on, was Pennsylvania Dutch, then migrated to TX before ending up in Grand Junction, CO. Said PA Dutch used to have 7 -8 pickling goodies on the table each evening. Since she has passed on the receip is also gone. He said it was just wonderful. He said it was more like a relish….

  • Eloise

    I just got through making your green tomato chutney and now waiting for some time to pass before trying it. I think I am catching on to this pickling / preserving thing. It is wonderful!

  • Eloise

    Yummmmmmmmmmmmmm. The green tomato chutney is amazing. The folks at work loved it. THANK YOU ED! I just made some basil pesto and am very disappointed at how little you get for how many plants I used from the garden. But, still tasty and it shows me that I’ll need to grow more basil plants next if I am going to have a larger quantity to be able to freeze.

  • Ed Bruske

    The good news, Eloise, is that it’s not at all hard to grow a ton of basil, if pesto is what you’re after. Also, see the curried okra stew with coconut milk and lots of basil.

  • Natalie

    I am so excited to try this recipe! We have an abundance of eggplant and basil in our garden and I was searching the web for uses. From the comments I’ve read it sounds like this will freeze? Is that correct? And if so, do you need to do anything different to prep it for the freezer? Do you just take it out and thaw in the fridge?Thanks!

  • Ed Bruske

    I have never frozen this. I can’t imagine why you would.

  • Eloise

    Thanks Ed, I will try to curry stew. I have some basil frozen and hopefully my husband didn’t look at it and go…what the hec???? I’ll have to check the freezer this evening to ensure I have labeled it.

  • Rosalba

    thank you for this eggplant canning page, it is what I had been looking for, just the way my mother used to do back in Italy and now that she can no longer pass on her knowledge I was lost. My garden produced a lot of eggplants and still getting more. I already made 3 pans of eggplant casseroles, was looking for for a way to preserve them for winter. Thank you again.

  • Steven

    Botulism in oil preserved things is not from 20 years ago – it’s actually been fairly frequent more recently. But… The vinegar and to some extent, the salt, takes care of it. I might make the slight alteration in this recipe of also soaking the garlic and basil in the salt and vinegar solution for a bit. Actually soak it in a vinegar bath, then strain it out, and use the vinegar for the eggplant! Oh – and I think it’s stated above – but the more saturated the fat – the higher the temp at which it is liquid. Olive oil is more saturated (mono=good) so it begins to solidify at fridge temps. So just take some out and let it sit at room temps before serving. Garlic will turn green in acids (not all the time) = this is perfectly OK.

  • Steven

    Oh – and I should have said add the garlic and basil back in again!

  • lynn

    dose it have to be refrigerated can it be caned? or can I do this and put it on a shelf?

  • Ed Bruske

    Lynn, I have never kept it without refrigerating and I’ve never “canned” (processed) it, so I cannot answer your questions. I don’t believe the original recipe called for refrigeration. But you’re on your own there.

  • Patrick

    Hi Ed. I made something similar to this about two years ago, but I did a hot pickle with boiling vinegar solution and packed into jars with a hot olive/safflower oil marinade. I didn’t process them for long, about ten minutes in a hot water bath and put them away. I’m writing to ask you what is the longest you’ve had these stored before you’ve eaten them? My wife is a little afraid that the canning wasn’t done to USDA standards and I’m not so sure about them either. Any experience you could impart would help me make a decision to try or toss them. I did use the excess oil for cooking for a year afterward with no ill effects (just stored it in one of those grolsch bottles with the ceramic and rubber seal). Thanks