Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer's End Spicey Eggplant Pickles

Little Prince container eggplant, mid August, zone 6

These are quick pickles that are NOT processed for long storage and must be kept refrigerated. 

Much of my passion about making pickles is using produce we grow in our garden. I've included the seed sources for the varieties of plants because sometimes it's hard to sort through the myriad of seed suppliers on line - I have found these sources to be reliable over the years. I no longer process pickles, but rather make limited amounts, store the finished pickles in the refrigerator and we consume within 2-3 months. If you are interested in a good starter source of information for canning and processing food, the old stand-by, Ball's Blue Book is easy to find. 

Eggplant, about a day short of harvesting for pickles 
These eggplant pickles are made with "Little Prince" eggplants - a variety that is bred for container gardening. The plants are gorgeous potted plants, the eggplant grow in clusters and are ripe when 2-3 inches! You can let them grow longer, to about 6-7 inches, which make them perfect for roasting directly on the BBQ.   The purple flowers attract variety of pollinators to our garden. The seeds are available on-line, I purchase mine at Renee's Garden Seeds. 

In addition to the eggplant, the recipe calls for garlic (a favorite of ours to grow is "Georgian Fire," purchased through Seed Savers Exchange) and medium hot peppers (I use Cherezo, a cherry-type pepper,  purchased through John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds).  


Cherezo Cherry Pepper at the green stage, they fully ripen to bright red 
Georgian Fire garlic immediately after harvesting 
Let brined vegetables stand for 24 hours at room temperature before refrigerating
T
NOTE:
The trick to making pickles, processed or not, is to make sure your
equipment is clean and the produce is washed well. There are ratios regarding acid (provided by vinegar), salt (I use kosher salt, which has no additives, there is also "pickling salt.") and water to ensure successful results.  The Blue Book will give you clear information about this.  I fill clean jars (quarts and/or pints) with boiling water while I'm preparing the produce and soak caps in a bowl of boiling hot water.  You'll need tongs to handle the hot jars and caps, there is a specific tong for canning jars that allows you to grab the jar by the neck, hold it firmly and tilt to empty.

Choreography for a non-processed pickle:
The process is simple: clean and "quasi" sterilize the jars and caps by filling with boiling water. Prepare the produce, pack the jars, cover loosely, allow to stand at room temperature for 24 hours, tighten caps and refrigerate. The actual length required for pickling varies, the process of pickling these pickles takes about a week in the refrigerator.

Equipment:
  • A large pot or teakettle for boiling water and a 2nd non-reactive pot for simmering the eggplant
  • Several quart jars (no need for "canning" jars as you will not be processing the pickles), caps that fit the jars well (canning lids fit standard quart "mayonnaise" type jars)
  • Tongs for grabbing the hot jars and lids (canning tongs are a good investment for this)
  • Measuring spoons and glass cups 
Ingredients: (for each quart jar you would like to make)
  • Approximately 1 lb of baby eggplant
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (and additional salt for boiling the eggplant)
  • 2 - 3 Cherezo Cherry peppers, or any hot pepper you like. The peppers can be used at the green or red stage; green chili peppers will be slightly less hot than the red. 
  • 4-5 cloves garlic 
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 4-6 basil leaves, or a short stalk of fresh rosemary, or any other herb flavoring you like 
  • Vinegar mixture (3/4c wine vinegar and 1/2c parts water).  You can use either white or red wine vinegar, this mixture makes about 2 cups of this mixture. 
Procedure: 
  • Clean jars and lids. Boil a large tea kettle, pour the boiling water in the jars until flowing over a bit and in the bowl in which you drop the lids 
  • Measure and mix pickling brine items (3 parts vinegar 2 parts boiled and cooled water)  
  • Wash the produce, prepare for pickling on a clean board with a clean sharp knife 
    • Measure the salt, the full amount must be added to the quart jar
    • For this recipe you will need to use UNpeeled larger eggplant. Smaller eggplant can be used whole. Larger eggplant can be cut in half or large chunks 
    • Peel and slightly smash garlic cloves with the side of knife
    • Slit the cheery peppers.  The quantity will be up to you, but I've found that even with very hot peppers (yellow "fish" for example) you won't need more than 3 peppers.  Make a slit in each of the peppers, without opening the pepper up. If you can, you want to avoid loose seeds in the brine 
    • Measure the peppercorns, wash the herb leaves
  • Boil water, with a bit of kosher salt,  in a large stockpot. Add the eggplant, lower the heat to simmering and par-cook for about five minutes. 
  • Empty the water filled jar (s) 
    • Add about 1/2 of the spice mixture and all of the salt
    • Fill with hot eggplant, prepared peppers produce and garlic 
    • Add remaining spices, fill to the top with brine
    • Close the jar tightly enough to shake for a few seconds to ensure that the salt is suspended throughout the liquid. 
    • Loosen cap and let rest at room temperature for about 24 hours 
    • Tighten the cap and store in the refrigerator for one week before using
  • After a week, remove a piece of eggplant and taste, if you want it pickled a bit more, close the jar and store for another few days (in the refrigerator).
  • If you are using 2-part canning lids you may find that the lid appears to have "self sealed," the jar may have formed a semi-vacuum, but these jars are not sealed for long term storage outside of the refrigerator.