Preserved food is one of the best ways to eat vegetables or fruits from the summer season also during the winter season when only little fresh food is growing outside. Preserved under olive oil in Italy it becomes a great antipasto. One of my favorite is eggplants in olive oil.
Today in our modern world it is possible to eat a strawberry cake in January or a dish with kale in August. Have asparagus in November and oranges in April. That is something I never liked. I am a seasonal eater. I like to eat asparagus in late spring when also the strawberries are everywhere. I like very much oranges during the winter season, like also kale and all kinds of cabbages. But of course, there is an exception: preserved food. I mean: what is better than homemade canned food? You have too many eggplants in the garden and can’t eat them all? Well, then preserve it like our ancestors did. I do that for many years.
Preserved food in olive oil is a very old technique. The Romans used this way of food preservation already. The olive oil covers the previously cooked food and this way it doesn’t get bad. Instead of olive oil you can use any other, but the taste is the best with fresh olive oil extra virgin. And super healthy. In history it was vital for survival.
One of my favorite preserved foods is eggplants in olive oil. I prepare them every year and eat them during the winter-time with just freshly made bread or with some meat. So delicious. If you look for them in Italy: they are called melanzane sott’olio.
Eggplants in olive oil need a little preparation. After the eggplants are cleaned, they have to be in salt for at least 4 hours, or overnight. They get shortly cooked in vinegar water and then cut in pieces and mixed with the other ingredients, transferred into the jars and these filled up with the olive oil. The eggplants have to be covered well. Preserved this way they are good for at least a year. If you have many jars, you always can use them as gifts for friends and family. Who doesn’t love homemade food? Or when you are invited to someone’s home for dinner: bring a jar of this yummy antipasto instead of a bottle of wine. I bet everyone would appreciate that!
Peel the eggplants and cut them in slices, each about 1 inch thick.
Put the eggplant slices in a colander in layers, each layer sprinkle with enough salt. The last layer should be salted as well.
Put a deep dish under the colander and a breakfast dish on the top. A weight on the plate holds the eggplant layers down, that way the bitter liquid can go out with more ease.
Let sit for two hours, than turn over the eggplant layers and put back the dish and the weight for another two hours. The brown liquid coming out has all the bitter parts of the eggplants. Wait another two hours.
During your waiting time, prepare the garlic (clean and mince) and the parsley (clean and mince). Choose the jars and prepare to sterilize them.
After the two hours, take the eggplants out of the colander, squeezing them in order to get out the last liquid. Prepare in a pot the vinegar and water, bring to a boil. Cook the eggplant slices in two rounds each for 30 seconds. Take them out, spread them on a canvas and tap them dry with a paper towel. Let them cool a little bit.
While you are waiting you can sterilize the jars and lids in the still super hot vinegar water and let them dry (upside down) on the canvas as well.
Now cut the eggplant slices into small filets. Transfer in a bowl, add all the spices (parsley, garlic and chili flakes) and mix well with two spoons.
Now take a little of your eggplant mixture and put it on the bottom on the first jar, add a little olive oil, another layer of eggplant mixture, olive oil and so on. Press the mixture always down that the air goes out. When filled nearly to the top, fill with olive oil and put the lid. Don't close too well, you need to reopen the jars later.
Proceed with the other jars until you used all the eggplant mixture.
Leave the jars on the table and wait at least 4-5 hours. Then open them again and look if the olive oil is still covering all eggplant mixture. If not, add some more olive oil and close well.
The eggplants in oil have to sit at least one week. The longer, the more taste they will have.
To store the 'melanzane sott'olio' you just leave them in your pantry. Don't put them in the fridge! After you opened a jar, finish it within a couple of days.
I stored them the whole winter and longer this way without a problem.
Try also other vegetables like zucchini, artichoke, mixed vegetables, cauliflower and the list goes on.
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