The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Preserving Eggplant In Olive Oil

September 3rd, 2009 · 114 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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  • John Alexander

    G’day Ed
    I want to try the Eggplant recipe but have no room in my refrigerator.Will they keep alright in the pantry?

  • Ed Bruske

    John, many people have asked this and my resonse has always been that I refrigerate this eggplant out of an abundance of caution. I have never tried keeping them in the pantry. As one reader has noted, there is a small risk of botulism from the garlic. You’ll have to make your own decision on this.

  • tc

    This was bloody amazing. With common sense, risk-free. Only problem? Keeping away from my hubby…

  • mary

    I made this a few times and it was really too salty until I started to rinse the eggplant after the salting (pressing it dry with a towel). Yes, I am a learn-as-you-go cook, and perhaps the rinsing step is taken for granted, but, having tried a few methods, using different salts, etc., I do not know how you can salt eggplant long enough for it to be leathery without needing to rinse it afterward. That done, this “cocktail eggplant”, as I have christened it, is really amazing.

  • Ed Bruske

    I’ve never noticed an issue with saltiness, Mary. But, by all means, make this recipe your own!

  • Debbie Bugg

    I haven’t tasted it yet but just from appearances I have noticed 1. my eggplant really darkened in color (kinda ugly, unlike the picture you showed) and 2. the oil has solidified(I do not have it in the freezer). So my question is….thaw it out at room temperature or what when I am ready to eat it?

  • Ed Bruske

    Debbie, the photos depict eggplant as it is being canned. It will definitely darken after aging. I usually age it a couple of months at least before opening. I’ve never frozen mine. Out of an abundance of caution, I keep mine in the fridge where the olive oil will solidify. It quickly goes back to liquid state after coming back to room temperature.

  • Lena Gross

    Not enough refrigerator space to put a lot….is there an alternative method to preserving large amounts of E Plant?

  • Ed Bruske

    Some people store it in the pantry. But as I’ve said before, Lena, I always kept it in the fridge out of an abundance of caution. There have been reports of botulism associated with uncooked garlic.

  • Lena Gross

    I now have my egg plants strips soaking in with the salt. Couple of questions…..1. Does it have to be fresh basil…2. Does it have to be fresh garlic….(can I use the ‘canned garlic’ in a jar, etc.? Thanks

  • Ed Bruske

    I have no experience with the ingredients you mention, Lena. You’re on your own there.

  • Kelley Wilkinson

    Is this used cooked in a dish when you use it, or raw as is?

  • georgina gabriel

    I have a problem – have just made baby aubergines preserved in olive oil – in preserving jar with rubber ring washer between glass lid & jar; now, the oil is leaking out constantly and gently when standing upright. Aubergines were neatly covered with oil & I did not fill jar up to the very top, but it is constantly leaking all the same … help ! any comments, tips ??

  • Ed Bruske

    Sorry, Georgina. No idea.

  • Ed Bruske

    This is meant to be eaten as is–a perfect antipasto.

  • Morgan

    Hi Ed. I adore this recipe! I have a question though, Today I accidentally forgot to let the eggplant sit in the vinegar for an hour before packing, and just tossed them straight into jars after the vinegar toss, and covered with oil. Will they be okay?

  • Ed Bruske

    I’m sure they’ll be okay, Morgan. Maybe just a little different.

  • Nicole

    The way to make these shelf-safe is to marinate the crushed garlic in vinegar overnight before packing. This can be done at the same time as the salt cure of the eggplants. Then the acidity will prevent botulism from developing in the jar, no matter what spores may be present. Research “safe way to preserve garlic in oil” for more explanation on this subject. Great recipe!

  • Allen Sands

    Nice recipe. The salting process is done for 12 hours, is that necessary? When I cook with eggplant I use a method I was taught in culinary school which involves heavily salting the eggplants to draw out the bitter toxins and then a thorough rinse but this can be done in 10-15 minutes. What does doing it for 12 hours do?

  • Ed Bruske

    The object is to remove as much moisture as possible from the eggplant. If you feel you can do this in 10 or 15 minutes, go for it. In my experience, the longer it sits, the more moisture is leached out of the eggplant. Then squeeze….

  • Chef Paullett De Moura

    The Pickling of the garlic with vinegar is not safe. There have been cases of botulism with salad dressings done this way. The moisture in the garlic is part of the problem. The safest way is to use dried herbs. I recommend not using garlic powder but to use dried garlic chips or granulated garlic. The vinegar raises the acidity of the vegetable also making it less likely to be a food safety hazard. The only way to be 100% safe would be to use a pressure caner. (not to be confused with a pressure cooker) Failing that my second choice would be to water bath can it for 10 minutes and keep it in the fridge.

  • Bernadette Shaw

    Do I have to peel the eggplants?

  • Ed Bruske

    The instructions are pretty clear on this: Yes

  • Rob

    To georgina gabriel…the oil is doing this because the eggplants are fermenting and building up pressure in the jar. I make a lebanese eggplant pickle called Batinjan Makdous and it does the same thing. Just loosen the lids once every week for a few weeks. The fermentation is fine, it raises the acidity levels thus helping preserve the food. I keep my Makdous in the pantry for like a year and its fine, no water bath or pressure cooker, and it has lots of raw garlic in it…ive never gotten sick from it.

  • Dian

    Can you reuse the olive oil for another batch when this one has been eaten?

  • Ed Bruske

    Never tried it, Dian.

  • Laszlo

    Hi Ben,

    Just found your great recipe by googling ” how to preserve eggplant”
    Two questions: will this recipe works with grilled eggplant? Also, talking about possible risks of botulism because of raw garlic: what if slowly cook the carlic in the olive oil before pour it into the jar?

  • Ed Bruske

    Glad you found the recipe, Laszlo. My name is Ed. In answer to your two question, I have to say I don’t know. I’ve never tried either. As to using grilled eggplant, my guess is it would just fall apart in the jar. The recipe calls for raw eggplant treated with salt. You could always cook your garlic ahead of time to reduce the risk of botulism. I’ve never had a problem using raw garlic, but I always kept my finished eggplant in the refrigerator.

  • Laszlo

    Ooops, sorry about your name, Ed! 🙂

    I’m gonna give it a try with grilled eggplants anyway, let’s see how it turns out!

  • Ed Bruske

    My problem with grilled eggplant is the cooking process breaks down the cell structure to the point I think you will end up with eggplant soup. Raw eggplant, on the other hand, with cell structure intact, becomes somewhat leathery. When they have fully cured, you can remove individual pieces from the jar. I think that was the intended effect. But of course you are welcome to try anything, Laszlo.

  • Anonymous

    great recipe and the instructions seem flawless. if anyone has any questions they really ought to google similar recipes, notably melanzane sott’olio.

    I can’t believe some of the comments on here, the inane things that people ask… but they are a true testament to your patience and generosity of time (if nothing else). i know that if it were my site i’d be very snappish.

    people need to learn to help themselves sometimes and not rely on others so much.

    anyway, enough politicising, thank you for sharing this and for the clear instructions. i’ll be trying it once i harvest another batch of aubergines from my plants although not in a clear glass jar but a long, red food grade plastic kind common in my country.

    take care,


  • BGHC

    The problem that Georgina had with oil oozing from the sealed jars is very common when you are working with oil based ingredients. It’s an easy fix, just wipe off the lids, rubber seals and jar rims with a lightly soapy, moisten paper towel.

  • al

    hi, after i initially refrigerate for a week- can i store in the basement (outside of the fridge?)?

  • Ed Bruske

    No idea, al. As I’ve told readers a number of times, I always refrigerate mine so if you choose a different route you are on your own.

  • Annette Truman

    I would like to know how much eggplant to how much salt and red vinegar. Do you squeeze the excess red vinegar out? Also, does it matter if you fill each jar to the top or just leave I/8 th of an inch space at the top and then seal it with the lid? I can’t wait to enjoy the eggplant preserve. I have always had my Mom’s eggplant with white vinegar and she added small sliced green, I think, spanish olives. Oh so delicious! Thank you for this recipe sounds great, I just want to get it right!

  • Ed Bruske

    Annette, this isn’t really a recipe that calls for specific quantities. It’s a method–use whatever eggplant you have on hand. Then just follow the method, as in salting the eggplant, letting it sit for 12 hours, squeezing out the water, then tossing with enough red wine vinegar to coat. You don’t have to squeeze the vinegar out. You want the vinegar in there to help preserve the eggplant. Follow your instincts.

  • Marc Belanger

    This recipe is fantastic. I wouldn’t worry about botulism just as long as fresh eggplant off the vine is used. Don’t let it sit around, and if garlic is added, be sure to carefully peel the garlic to avoid at all costs any of the outside wrapping that has been exposed to the elements. In other words, don’t touch the outside skin with a knife to help peel , or hit the garlic with a tenderizing hammer because the bacteria on the outside skin could touch the inside garlic, contaminating the actual garlic clove before it’s cut up and immersed in oil. A good practice is to take light philip berio olive oil from costco and dump the entire container into a pot, deep frying large quantities of garlic, killing all of the bacteria, then dumping the hot oil into the pre cleaned jars. This will sterilize the jars and the contents. Then, once you strain your eggplant pieces that have been thoroughly pickled and degorged so most of the water is pressed out, quickly put the pieces into the oil once it has cooled to prevent it from making the eggplant mushy. I do this with my peppers, which I will post my recipe for my anchovie and cheese filled peppers which are said to be the best peppers most people have ever tasted. I will be looking for a way to popst my recipe, so be on the lookout for “loaded” hungarian wax peppers, which are actually as Italian as it comes, minus the type of pepper. We also use the Italian frying peppers, which are not sold in stores, most people don’t even know the correct name or pronunciation as they call then “corn ‘o da cob” peppers, which isn’t even close to the proper pronunciation.. Anyway, the eggplant recipe is a real delight, and you too do not have to starve yourself of items grown in the garden throughout the year if you take your time finding recipes to preserve your garden’s wonderful bounty. Harvest and preservation should always be a lot of fun to do. I have a lot of pride making my preserved vegetables and you can too if you use the procedures to reminisce the past experiences of doing so with a grand parent, great grandparent, etc. Nothing is as nice as spending time teaching your children or grandchildren the methods of canning, jarring or preserving delicious vegetables and meats that has been a family tradition for some us, centuries.

    It feels great being able to pass this down to the next generation so they in turn could pass this down to their kids, grandkids, etc.

    Oh BTW, the green we see in the brine or oils can be the following.. Garlic is grown in many conditions, and the addition of copper sulfates to soil, fertilizers, or just plain old growing soils can add this to the mix of a garlic’s inside meat. When you pickle these garlic cloves in acidic mixes, such as vinegar, the copper oxides form from the water in the pickling brine , making them turn green. They taste good still and are still healthy and safe to eat. Garlic with this trait actually has a very strong garlic taste to it and is best for making cucumber pickles like the store bought brand named “Claussen”, which taste incredibly good. This is anopther one of my recipes to be added here. I will attempt to post this and a spicy variety that has been the life of every party for all men in my family, and friends. Everybody goes nuts over these and they are simple to make!

  • Farm4Goats

    Thanks for posting the link for this recipe to GRIST. We grow and sell 7 different types of heirloom eggplants. There’s always some left over from the market and I’m constantly looking for new ways to use them. Gonna start a batch tonight.

  • Raina

    So looking forward to making this recipe. (Being of ‘continental’ extraction this sounds right up my alley.) Many Aussies don’t go in for this type of food and look at me askance when referring to it’
    Thank you.

  • Wes Ivins

    I am making this recipe and my eggplant have turned totally brown after the 12 hr salt drain. I am at the vingegar soak stage now. Although I do not think the green color will come back as in the picture above; I can see the brown bruising has lightened a little.

    I am going to finish the project and see how the final result looks and tatstes. It the collor you gave pictured how they should actually look when going into the jars, or is that just a photo for visual appeal?

  • Ed Bruske

    I’m not sure I like the implication of your question, Wes. The photo was taken just before the eggplant was salted. The pieces do eventually turn brown and leathery–nothing unusual there.

  • Wes Ivins

    Sorry if I offeneded. I wasn’t trying to imply anything. I thought pehaps those photos were taken before salting. I just wanted a little clarity to be sure I am making it correctly. Thanks Ed

  • Ed Bruske

    No offense taken, Wes, only to say that we aren’t in the business of pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes around here.

  • Wes Ivins

    I never thought that.. please understand this is my very first eggplant encounter ever. I grew them in my garden this year. I have never purchased them. So, I searched for a good way to preserve them, found your recipe and I became emamored with it. Thanks again Ed, I am sure it will turn out wondefully!!

  • anna

    does it store on the shelf or in the refrigerator?

  • Ed Bruske

    Ann, see if it doesn’t help to read the other comments to this post.

  • Natalie

    Thanks for the enlightening idea. I have been trying find this mezza recipe that this Syrian lady used to make pickling small eggplants packed out in salt and olive oil. This is closest in texture. Fantastic!

  • Ed Bruske

    Glad you like it, Natalie

  • Maryanne

    I did this year’s ago, but never got anything edible. The eggplant was bitter and tough. I love eggplant and was looking forward to behaving a winter supply.

  • Ed Bruske

    Sorry to hear that, Maryanne. We’ve never had that problem.