The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Preserving Eggplant In Olive Oil

September 3rd, 2009 · 108 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…