Garden Antipasto

Eggplant, eggplant, eggplant. Never have we received so much eggplant in the CSA: growing eggplants must be fond of torrential rain storms interspersed with bright, sunny days. The peppers have been no slouch either: pale green Cubanelles, tiny, dark purple bells, fat red and yellow sweet peppers, they’ve all been making their way into my meals of late, but there are so many that they need to find their way into my freezer and pantry as well.

Enter canned antipasto: a vinegar & oil pickle, this preserve makes use of this summer’s bounty of eggplant & peppers, adds a bit of aromatic flavor with garlic & herbs, and once mellowed on the shelf for a few weeks, will be a welcome addition to a cheese plate, charcuterie platter or traditional Italian meal. I haven’t yet opened a jar, so I can’t comment on taste or texture of the finished product. Given that it is a pickle, it’s unlikely that I’ll be raving over the flavor, but someone will love it, and I think that a jar of this, with a nice Italian salumi and some handmade pasta, would make a fabulous gift for new parents (instant dinner!), high school grads heading off to college (at least they’ll have one decent meal) or your host for those inevitable summer travels.

I have to admit that the idea of canning with this much oil has made me nervous in the past: but since I broke the seal on a vinegar-and-oil pickle with last summer’s marinated green peppers, and the brine proportions here are straight from Linda Zeidrich’s marinated peppers recipe, I’m confident that this preserve is safe for water bath canning. The original inspiration came from Georgeanne Brennan, whose preserving book The Glass Pantry is one of my favorites; however, she called for no vinegar at all in the brine, only olive oil. Although I know they’ve been doing it for centuries in India, I just couldn’t bring myself to make a full-on oil pickle. In this version, eggplant and peppers are poached in a vinegar-water brine (so they should be nicely acidified prior to packing into jars), then covered in a vinegar-olive oil brine and processed in a water bath prior to storage. Storage time will only improve the preserve, allowing the flavors to blend and mellow, or so the theory goes. I’ll let you know in a month or two!

Adapted from Summer Antipasto in The Glass Pantry by Georgeanne Brennan and Marinated Sweet Peppers by Julia at What Julia Ate (originally from Linda Ziedrich in The Joy of Pickling)

Garden Antipasto

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 and 1/2 lbs sweet peppers, stemmed, seeds & ribs removed, thickly sliced (I used a mix of red, orange, yellow and green)
  • 1 lb eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch batons
  • 2 cups red wine vinegar, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp Kosher or pickling salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 large, or 6 small, cloves garlic
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, or other fresh herb
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp black peppercorns

METHODS

  1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  2. In a medium stockpot, bring 1 cup of vinegar + 1 cup water to a boil. Add eggplant and poach, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 2 – 3 minutes. Scoop eggplant out with a slotted spoon and remove to a clean bowl.
  3. Add sliced peppers to the stockpot. Add water to cover: bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until peppers are softened, about 2 – 3 minutes. Drain and remove peppers to the eggplant bowl.
  4. Add 2 small garlic cloves, 2 sprigs thyme and 1/2 tsp peppercorns to each clean, hot pint jar. Pack in eggplant and peppers, squishing them in fairly tightly, to a generous 1/2-inch head space. Fill all pint jars with vegetables before adding brine.
  5. Bring remaining 1 cup vinegar and salt to a boil in the stockpot. Add olive oil and bring back to a boil. Ladle boiling brine over peppers & eggplant in the pint jars: remove any air bubbles with a  chopstick or spatula, adjusting brine to a head space of 1/2-inch. Wipe rims thoroughly (ensure no olive oil remains on the rims), affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Yields 3 pints.

OPTIONS

  1. Any fresh herb or dried spice will work in this recipe: fresh basil is common in antipasto, as is parsley and oregano. Use what you like and have on hand.
  2. Linda Z’s original recipe called for only bell peppers, while the antipasto recipe in The Glass Pantry did not call for any vinegar in the brine. I’ve combined the two methods to come up with a recipe that I believe will be tasty and safe for water bath canning.

STORE

Canned, in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Allow to mellow on the shelf for a few weeks before opening.

SEASON

Summer.

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11 comments

    • You could, but eggplant is classic in antipasto and zucchini is less so. Also you may find that the more delicate zucchini does not hold up as well to processing. However, from a safety standpoint it is fine, and I am always a fan of testing new things out on a small batch.

    • Hi Deb,

      If you read the head notes above, you’ll see that I, too, was a bit nervous about this amount of oil in water-bath canning. However, Linda Zeidrich is an unimpeachable resource, and as such, I trust that these proportions are safe. I believe that, with respect to oil or other fats used in caning, the USDA errs on the side of caution, because if people were to adjust the ratio of oil to vinegar, it could easily render the contents unsafe (and capable of producing botulism). [I actually tend to think that most of the "no oil" rules come from people who want to home-can pesto, which is a definite no-no.]

      So, yes, I’m fully confident that this preserve is safe as written. But of course, you should always trust your own judgement. I don’t think that the pickle would hold up under pressure canning, but you could always make a pint or two and stick it in the fridge, instead of canning, if you have concerns.

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