Preserved Eggplant

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Over the weekend I have been working on this Melanzane Sott'Olio recipe. It's not complicated but it takes some time.

I was a little freaked out that you don't cook the eggplant at all (although I've found some recipes that tell you to). Instead, you salt the eggplant and press it so as to remove as much water as possible. In Mario's recipe, a crazy set-up using roasting pans and bricks is used, but I went with the more conventional if possibly less effective method of placing the slices in a colander over a bowl, with a pot of water on top.

I left the eggplant like this for the better part of the day, but did not reach the 12 hours specified by the recipe. As I had no plans to continue prepping the eggplant at 3am, I stuck the whole ensemble in the fridge over night.

The next morning, I squeezed the remaining water from the eggplant slices (which I had sliced into rounds instead of lengthwise as suggested in the recipe). For reference, I also used 1 regular eggplant instead of the Japanese eggplants called for, and I substituted oregano from the garden for the acacia flowers. The recipe tells you to place serrano pepper between every few layers as you add to the jars. I am assuming that means slices of serrano peppers. I can only guess how spicy this is going to be ;)

Two little jars of eggplant are now marinating in the fridge. I hope they turn out to be yummy!

Here's a video of a nonna doing it. Here's another similar recipe and video by Mary Ann Esposito.

I couldn't help myself and went for a slice yesterday. It's still a little early in the marinating process. The eggplant was not spicy but the garlic was powerful. I might use less next time. Even though it seemed like I hadn't added a lot of vinegar, it tasted strongly of it. The mint was a great addition.

I had been frightened by not cooking the eggplant, but I can see now that cooking is unnecessary.

It seems like my unimpressive method of pressing the eggplant undramatically but overnight and then giving the slices a brief squeeze was fine.

There was a layer of congealed olive oil on the top (from being in the fridge). It looks distasteful, but is not a problem. I think the eggplant would be perfect as an appetizer at room temperature on a hot day when you are hungry!

After this test run, I would recommend:

  • be frugal with the vinegar
  • be generous with the olive oil
  • the garlic should be an accent; proceed with caution
  • overall, the spiciness was not as overwhelming as I feared, even though the serrano were quite hot and numerous
  • use a lot of fresh herbs
  • salt the eggplant beforehand very liberally; it's rather nice when the final result has some salt
  • squeeze the water from the eggplant thoroughly after salting

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