Amy and I both prioritize our gardens and use those gardens to feed our families, though her garden is far more diverse and tidy than mine. (For example, my tomatillo plants are on the ground, flat and smashed.) Still, we have both grown and preserved eggplant, and her recipe is perfect. It takes a little patience but it’s so worth it. Your antipasti plate will thank you. -Maggie
At our tiny farmhouse, we have a large garden that is designed, through very deliberate planning, to feed two people fresh vegetables daily from early May though the end of September, not including the winter squash and potatoes that we’ll store in the root cellar. In winter, as I start seeds, I plan for how many of each vegetable we’ll need to grow in order to achieve this goal.
Later in the year, when the garden soil can finally be worked, those seeds that can be sown directly are sown on a schedule, so that by the time the asparagus patch stops producing, greens take their place, right up until the early zucchini start appearing on the vine.
Regardless of how much we plan, we require the cooperation of Mother Nature. Some years she is kind. Other year, she is less so. But this year she has been very, very kind, indeed, and in addition to the zucchini, our summer squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant have all been producing more than two people can possible eat in the near term.
While the glut of produce is welcome, it does require finding means to use or preserve that which we harvest. The potatoes are easy, as they are intended for fall and winter consumption, and keep well with nothing but a transfer from the potato patch to the root cellar. The surfeit of zucchini and eggplant have been preserved in jars, the tomatoes roasted and canned for use on dark winter nights, a reminder of summer and time spent in the garden, the eggplant preserved for use much more in the near term.
For once we’ve had our fill of grilled, roasted, and fried eggplant, we can’t think of a better way to serve surplus garden eggplant (or any shiny, plump eggplant you come upon this time of year) than as a ready-made antipasti. Particularly one that is pickle-tart, garlicky, spicy, and kissed by peppery olive oil. I like it straight from the far, or with crusty bread and goat cheese for a quick lunch or appetizer.
As it happens, we have both white and purple eggplant growing in our garden this year, and the alternating colors look lovely in the glass jar. The preserved eggplant is pretty and taste, just like the garden itself.
Makes 1 16-oz (pint) jar
- 1 1/2 pounds eggplant (approximately 3 small or 2 medium), sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch rounds
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 cups white wine vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like extra heat)
- Approximately 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Layer the eggplant rounds in a large colander, sprinkling salt over the rounds as you layer.
- Place the colander in the sink. Fill a medium mixing bowl with water and place it atop the eggplant.
- Let the eggplant drain for 6 to 8 hours, then gently squeeze any remaining liquid out of the eggplant.
- Bring the white wine vinegar and water to a boil. Add the peppercorns and the eggplant to the pot.
- Bring the mixture back up to a boil. As soon as it’s reached the boiling point, drain the liquid completely from the eggplant, and discard the liquid.
- Place the eggplant on clean kitchen towels (not your favorite ones, as the aubergine color leaches from the skin) or paper towels to dry for 2 to 3 hours.
- After the drying time, pack the eggplant tightly into a sterilized jar, layering oregano leaves and slices of garlic amongst the eggplant.
- Once the jar is full, carefully pour in the olive oil, surrounding the eggplant completely. If necessary, use a spoon to create a path down the sides of the jar in order to insure that the oil reaches the bottom of the jar.
- Let the eggplant sit for 2 to 3 days before using. Preserved eggplant will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
All photos styled and taken by Amy McCoy.
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