How to cook like an Italian

Pickled Eggplant

On a recent trip to Sicily, I noticed many restaurants had pickled eggplant that was cut into thin strips, shaped like French fries. However, this isn’t how I grew up with the dish at all. My father and grandmother, and come to think of it, aunts and neighbors, used to make it like this:

Take a sterilized mason jar and fill it 1/3 way with EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), 4 cloves of sliced garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.

Meanwhile, peel two large eggplants and slice them 1/4 thick (not too thin or they will break apart).

Take a colandar and line it with a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle salt on the layer and then add another layer of eggplant slices. Repeat the salting and layering until the colander is full. Put a plate on top and a heavy can and leave the eggplant for an hour or more so the bitterness drains out of it. You should either put this in the sink or put a large plate under it.

When you come back to it, the colander will have a brown pool of liquid under it. Discard this.

Take a high-sided frying pan and add two-three inches of white or cider vinegar. Bring to a boil and add the eggplant slices and let boil for 5-10 seconds. Pull out with tongs and add directly to the mason jar with the EVOO mixture. Keep pressing the eggplant down to compress as you add more so they are tightly packed in the jar.

If you need to add more oil to keep the eggplant submerged, make sure to do so. You don’t need to add more garlic or red pepper. When you have filled the jar with eggplant, make sure there is a layer of EVOO at the top. This preserves the eggplant. Seal the jar by closing tight and let it sit until it cools or overnight. Store in a cool, dark place or the fridge. Eat within a week with a hunk of delicious semolina bread or even make it into a sandwich! Here’s a video of my father, Sal, making one of his signature dishes:

Sal’s Pickled Eggplant from on Vimeo.

13 Responses to “Pickled Eggplant”

  1. Other Person says:

    Are you sure about this? Better check with your food safety person (I hope there is one). This sounds like a great recipe for botulism. Easy fix, do not let it sit at room temperature and put it in the refrigerator.

  2. Maria Raffa says:

    I am going to try this. I am 100% Sicilian so I know how to eat like a real Italian so I should like this.

  3. Kim Rosalie says:

    I learned this technique from a mother of a friend who was pure Italian and taught me her process. She essentially prepares the eggplant except she does not cook them, in the same manner. She added sliced garlic, the red “witches nose” pepper, celery and red wine vingegar. You then sterilize the jars in the dishwasher. Once cooled enough to handle (jars) you alternate layers between the eggplant, peppers, garlic, EVOO, red , wine vinegar, and celery. She keeps the leaves of the celery stalk and lays them on the top of the contents in the jar. She then seals them. Yes, they are stored in a dark closet for 3 months. It is basically the same technique as cerviche. The vinegar, and other ingredients, “cook” the contents. Once ready to open and enjoy, you add slice black olives, cooked cauliflower and lots of anchovies. You serve hard crusty bread or you can even prepare bruschetta (just slice and toast the bread) and let your guests top their own slice with the ingredients they like. But trust me, if I can get my father-in-law (Italian with Palermo family history) who said he would never eat an anchovy. We buried it on the bottom of the helping of the pickled eggplant and he loved it! Asked for more!

  4. sweetyetnotsticky says:

    u dont put any of the vinegar on the jar??

  5. Florentina says:

    It looks great, I bet it tastes awesome too.

  6. Deborah says:

    you wont get sick DO NOT REFRIDGERATE just follow directions
    Other person is WRONG
    putting it in the fridge will ruin it
    do that after the night it sits and you use it then you can store in fridge Always press the contents down so the oil always stays covered then you can use the oil left over for cooking or add lemon for a salad dressing why wate it or to roast pieces of eggplant and peppers in oven
    Italian cooking is SO GOOD because NOTHINGS wasted
    if you put this in the fridge first off
    the olive oil will harden and it wont work properly just put it in a dark cool place like a hall closet away from heat

  7. Lisa says:

    Other person, fyi Italians have done this for years. The jar is sealed and you will only refridgerate after opening. The longer it sits in the oil the better. We have had jars of pickled eggplant, homemade this way all of my life. Typically my family has a history of long lives. The health dept. is a good thing, but people can get a little crazy with the info that they give. Try it you might just like it!!!!!!!

  8. This is a relatively easy dish to make, especially if you have the base sauce made
    ahead of time. After the feasts, the plates would have absorbed the
    gravy or sauces and remnants of the feast would be embedded
    into the soft dough. You can place a lettuce leaf on a plate and put a scoop of chicken
    salad in the middle and serve with reduced calorie crackers.

  9. Here is a simple, yet delicious recipe for making one the
    best ever grilled chicken recipes:. How about making a delightful and easy to make chicken
    salad. Beverages, breads, desserts, main courses, salads, and
    dressings – there was a Tupperware recipe for every
    part of a meal.

  10. Katherine says:

    I have been a food safety consultant for over 20 years and I must say that there should be a flag on this recipe for botulism. Botulism is commonly found in the soil so when you have a vegetable (onion and garlic) that are grown in the soil you increase your exposure. One of the first problems with this recipe is there is no processing of the raw onion or garlic before it is dropped into and then covered with oil. This just created an anaerobic environment for the botulism to develop. As mentioned by the July 6, 2009 comment, please make sure you refrigerate this product if you are not going to acidify or heat process it. This is not something to take a chance with. Refrigerated I am sure it is wonderful.

  11. Tom says:

    My family has made pickled eggplant for generations. Once it is jarred it sits unrefrigerated for weeks until it is ready. no one has ever gotten sick from it.

  12. atlmtnbiker says:

    i think the concern for botulism comes from a few different places in the is recipe. Rachel doesn’t go through the process of sealing the jars with heat as you would when canning jams/jellies/etc. because there is no heat applied (250*), the fear of botulism is not unwarranted.

    the concern becomes more real with the use of raw garlic in an oxygen-free environment, especially in just oil. this is prime breeding grounds for botulism. the difference in the above recipe is the use of the vinegar, but there’s still a risk. i don’t know how much vinegar is needed to kill the spores. do you?

    yes, people have done it this way for years, but a light change in a proven ratio using vinegar could be a deadly move. i wish i knew of a definitive way to guarantee there will be no botulism in a recipe such as this, but i do not. i’m a trained chef (retired), and this kind of recipe still scares the heck out of me.

  13. Here’s what I know …
    that old time recipes of this were and maybe still are made with eggplant slices layered, pickled and stored in crocks…not unlike kimchi.
    I just made the latter (6 grated cloves of garlic) and the jar sat on the counter for five days to ferment the cabbage. Day 5, it’s in the fridge.
    There is another recipe for this eggplant that’s finished off with a clove of garlic on the top of the jar. The eggplant, after the salting step which lasts longer than the one in this recipe, sits in cider vinegar for a time before the next steps take place.
    Even though I’m eating my kimchi (nothing in its right mind would grow on or in it;-)), I have decided to ‘boil’ a few cloves of garlic in a little pan of olive oil to season it, remove the cloves and then happily eat the cooked garlic all by itself.

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