I have searched for years to find a good Eggplant Caponata recipe. This was started when I was looking for something similar to my Grandma Ann’s Antipasto recipe but without the tuna and not quite as difficult to make. What I have found in italian markets and specialty grocers never comes close. Hers was a food of love.
A few weeks ago an old friend posted a link to an Eggplant Caponata recipe on Facebook from: https://createtv.com/recipe/caponata+stewed+summer+vegetables.
I made it, and our family quickly devoured it (and I had a few bites for leftovers).
It is still time consuming, but while not the same as my Grandmas. it evokes some of the same “food memories” and our family loves it. So take the following recipe with a grain of salt (and maybe a glass of wine) and adjust to the summer or fall garden bounty at hand. The grouping of ingredients and cooking technique are more important than the exact proportions. Having real garden (or farmers market) fresh plum tomatoes is one of the keys to success (as is the fresh basil). This year I discovered growing San Marzano tomatoes. Great flavor and very low moisture compared to other varieties that I have grown.
Ingredients per batch
4-5 small or 2 large eggplants ~2 lbs
1/2 cup red wine vinegar – boiled to reduce by half
2 Tbsp sugar
2 medium or 1 large onion
1 medium to large yellow or red bell pepper
4 ribs celery
1lb fresh plum tomatoes – San Marzano are ideal. Frozen, thawed and drained also work, but you may have to add back some liquid that was drained at the end if things are too stiff.
1 cup green olives – castelvetrano or cerignola – sliced
1/3 cup small capers drained or salted that were washed and soaked in warm water. For either, soak in warm water changes a few times for 15-30 min total to remove some more salt.
10 large basil leaves – finely chopped
Prep and cook
Chop all of the veggies into 1/2-3/4″ pieces. There is no need to peel the eggplant or tomatoes.
Toss the eggplant with 1-1.5 tsp fine grained salt (Morton Canning and Pickling Salt) and drain for 60 min.
Use your largest skillet, dutch oven or shallow stock pot. The frying will make a mess otherwise and you want lots of surface area for evaporation.
Pan fry the eggplant in 2/3 c vegetable oil for 15 min on high heat 0r deep fry at 365F for 10 min. Drain and set aside
Saute the onion, celery and pepper in olive oil until translucent on medium heat. You still want a little bit of snap and definitely no browning. About 8-10 min
Add the capers, olives and tomatoes, vinegar and sugar. Saute until the liquid is basically gone. About 10 min or close to 20 if using regular tomatoes (non-plum). Add basil at the end so as to not cook off the flavor.
Add several grinds coarse black pepper (~1/3 tsp)
Cool and serve or continue to canning while hot
For vegetables such as these,the pH must be below 4.5 and preferably around 4.0 for food safety when boiling water bath canning . Consult your University Extension if you have ANY doubts on technique. https://learningstore.uwex.edu/Assets/pdfs/B1159.pdf.
Test with pH paper. I have a roll of Hydrion 0-6 pH which I use for canning to give sufficient resolution. If pH is too high, add more red wine vinegar or lemon juice and boil a bit more if too runny. Ours came out in the 4-4.3 pH range consistently over 3 batches.
Pack in sterilized jars and process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes
Each batch should make about 4-5 pints minus what you sample.