Funny thing, memories are. When I was a wee little tot, there was a tulip tree on my property that had a hole in the bottom. It was one of the original trees from when the house was built, so by the time I was a kid it was already not only over 30-something years old, but massive. Right where the trunk met the grass, the roots grew in such a way that made it look like there was a doorway leading into the tree. A little cave, or “fairy house.” It intrigued me so much, that little door. I used to imagine that little creatures lived in there, and had a whole little tree house with furniture made of twigs & carpets made of woven grass. Maybe fairies, maybe gnomes, maybe even mice or squirrels. Preferably the kind that wear little vests & glasses.
Sadly, I grew up… & the tree was removed because it got too big.
Keeping that in mind, think of what went through my mind when I saw this recipe for “Pickled fairy tale eggplant” over at Food in Jars. It immediately conjured up images of fairies & that little door in the tree. It brought back memories that had absolutely nothing to do with eggplant. So of course, I had to make it. However- I do not like eggplant. In the past, I’ve made things like melanzane sott’olio & passed ’em along to my mother. So I figured why not do that again… who could turn down a pretty pinkish jar of something called fairy tale eggplant?
(I know, I’ve been stalking Food in Jars lately. I can’t help it)
Then I saw this post from In Jennie’s Kitchen & I knew I had to get my hands on some of these eggplants. The problem was, I couldn’t find any! I found white eggplant, regular eggplant, baby eggplant and Sicilian eggplant (seen above). I figured, since the Sicilian eggplant was two-tone, it could pass for the striped variety. However, they’re smaller, rounder & much fatter so my “slices” were quite different than those in the original recipe. I think they look kind of fairy-tale-ish on their own, anyway… like purply orbs of some kind of strange fruit you’d find on Once Upon a Time. They remind me of Cinderella’s carriage, actually!
The colors & patterns on the skin just grabbed me.
Rounder eggplants are apparently a bit sweeter, not much bitterness to them at all. Or so I’ve read. Which means that there’s no need to worry about peeling them (the skin is usually the most bitter part). Either way, in the salt & lemon juice soak most bitterness will be removed. And in the red wine vinegar the eggplant turns pinkish, so even a white eggplant would work; or a combination of both purple & white, maybe layered alternating in color, if you can’t find the fairy tale or heirloom variety. If you want to get multicolor purple/pink/white eggplants, in addition to the “fairy tale” striped ones or the Sicilian eggplants I recommend most of the heirloom kinds: Rotunda Bianca, Violetta di Firenze, Listada di Gandia & Bianca Smufata di Rosa, all of which are mouthfuls to say, I admit. But they’re beautiful!
The three eggplants above gave me 1 quart jar of pickles, the recipe below will give you the same amount. You do not have to use a quart jar… two pints or four half-pints will work just fine.
Okay, so, I didn’t use fairy tale eggplants. I refuse to believe that means my jar isn’t magic. Maybe it isn’t as “stripey” or quite as pretty in color as it might be. But its still pink. And to me, thats good enough.
Although the photo above might have had a little help from Photoshop.
FOOD IN JARS’ RECIPE FOR PICKLED FAIRY TALE EGGPLANT
- 1 quart of fairy tale eggplants
- 3 cups red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- the juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1/3 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- Start by trimming away the stem end off a quart of fairy tale eggplant and slicing each fingerling into four or six wedges (use your judgement; more strips for larger eggplants, fewer for smaller ones). Place them in a bowl and toss them with two tablespoons kosher salt and the juice of one lemon (the salt draws out the liquid in the eggplant and the lemon prevents them strips from browning).
- Once the eggplant slivers have sat for an hour or two, you dump them into a colander and give them a quick rinse. Then, using your hands, gently press out as much liquid as you can without entirely smashing the eggplant. While you are rinsing and draining, pour three cups of red wine vinegar into a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
- Put all the eggplant into the boiling vinegar. Once the vinegar returns to a boil, let the eggplant cook for just 2 minutes.
- When the cooking time is up, remove the eggplant from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and place it into a bowl (keep the vinegar hot).
- Add 1/4 cup torn basil leaves, 1 minced garlic clove, and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper to the eggplant and stir to combine.
- Funnel the dressed eggplant into two prepared pint jars (half pints are fine as well). Top with the blanching vinegar, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Using a chopstick, remove air bubbles and add more vinegar if the headspace levels have dropped.
- Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel (this removes any particulars that could interfere with a good seal). Apply heated lids and rings. Lower the jars into a small boiling water bath canner and process for 10 minutes (starting your timer when the pot returns to a boil) for pint or half-pint jars, 20 for quart. When the time is up, carefully remove jars from the canning pot and place them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the rings, check seals and (if seals are good), wash jars to remove any remnants of spilled brine.
- These pickles need a little curing time for optimum deliciousness. Give them at least a week (if not more).
Like I said, I did not use a quart of fairy tale eggplants. I used three fairly large Sicilian eggplants, but honestly, I think just about any kind of eggplant would work. It’s just a matter of how you cut them.
I didn’t want them to be in rounds like the last time I made pickled eggplant, I wanted slices or longer pieces to show off the skin color. So sliced off the stems, cut them in halves & then into fourths. From there I sliced them into “wedges”; if the wedges were too wide I sliced off more of the inside fleshy part to create another slice.
It’s pink! And no fairy dust needed.
Can a jar of pickled eggplant be magical? I don’t know. Maybe. This one was (for me, anyway)- it brought back memories of that tree, of being a kid, of summers spent playing with my Norfin trolls pretending that little doorway was their house & pretending fireflies were fairies.
Who says food can’t be magic?
Sources & credits: Pyrex “Spring Blossom” Cinderella mixing bowl; vintage.