Let’s not call the whole thing off, though, because aubergines are awesome. Velvety, versatile, and easy to grow.
My home-grown aubergines are still tiny wee things and it’ll be weeks before they’re ready, but they’re cheap in the shops at the moment, and I lobbed 2 big ones in my trolley as I whipped past recently. As the weather turned frosty (ie dropped below 30º) over the weekend I thought I’d crack on and make some pickles.
A quick search online revealed, of course, a mass of recipes for pickled aubergines, and so as usual I picked the best of a few and fiddled about with them. There were a crop of raw, salted, pickled recipes, and as I’ve never tried pickling a raw aubergine (always grilled them first) I thought I’d give it a go.
Most recipes suggested peeling them first, but I love the skins and they’re such a wonderful colour, so I compromised and peeled half. Most recipes suggested chunks or dice of aubergine, but I like a nice large surface area when pickling anything, so I went with slices instead. I also cut down on the salting time, from 6 – 8 hours, because it was mid afternoon, and I’m lazy. So essentially I:
- Arranged my slices of semi peeled aubergine in a large shallow plastic bowl and salted each layer liberally with table salt, making sure both sides were salted.
- Placed a plate on top, and placed 2 tubs full of water on top (water is 1 kilo per litre – nice and weighty)
- Left them for a couple of hours, then drained a huge amount of fluid off. It’s amazing how much water there is in aubergine!
- Put the weights back on and left it as long as I could be bothered to – probably another hour
- I then squeezed each slice to remove even more juice.
- In a saucepan, I brought to the boil a mixture of red wine vinegar and rice vinegar, and water (50:50 water and vinegar), with a tablespoon of peppercorns and some slices of fresh garlic. (Various recipes suggested putting raw garlic in with the pickle later, but I’ve heard tales of botulism from raw garlic in olive oil so I prefer to cook it first).
- Once boiling, add the now considerably less bulky slices of aubergine into the saucepan.
- Bring back to the boil, and simmer for a couple of minutes. This should wash off some of the salt, and start the preserving process.
- Drain well, and discard the liquid.
This next bit was from one of the several recipes I was mashing together, and for the life of me I can’t see the point of it, but I did it anyway. I may not bother next time: spread out the slices of aubergine to dry on a clean tea towel. To my mind this defeats the object of boiling the veg, and sterilising the jars etc so if anyone can cast light on why this is a good thing, please do let me know!!
After leaving the slices to dry, layer these in a sterilised jar with fresh herbs and dried chilli flakes. I used oregano as I have plenty in my garden.
Lastly, pour over good quality olive oil. Make sure this gets into all the little crevices and spaces between the slices, and excludes all the air. Slide a skewer or a teaspoon handle down the side of the jar if need be to encourage out all those air bubbles. Squash it down a bit, and leave at least a centimetre of oil on the top to seal it off.
Seal your jars with sterilised lids (I pour boiling water over mine), and keep in the refrigerator (I’m not brave enough to keep it in the pantry!). Leave it for a few days for the flavours to meld a bit.*
Don’t forget to use all that lovely flavoured olive oil once the aubergine slices are all eaten up!
*UPDATE: We tried them after only a week of stewing away in the fridge. To my considerable surprise, they were really good! I’m a big fan of grilled and roasted aubergine, much because of the contrast between the lovely soft textures of the insides and the crisp yet chewy skins, so I was unconvinced that raw & pickled would be to my taste. But, the added bite and more robust texture is good! More importantly, they weren’t in the least salty (and I had put rather a lot of salt on them during the drawing out process), and the currently still quite raw vinegary flavour was quite appealing. This will mellow over time of course. I’m looking forward to using it as a great stock cupboard addition to a meze spread, or with those lamb and yoghurt wraps we’re having for lunch….