Urban Preserving: Pickled Fairy Tale Eggplant

July 16, 2013(updated on October 3, 2018)

finished pickled fairytale eggplant

Two years ago, when I was still writing a weekly pickling column for Serious Eats, I made a little batch of pickled eggplant to feature in that space. The recipe was just slightly adapted from one in Linda Ziedrich’s book The Joy of Pickling. I did not have particularly high hopes for that particular pickle, but I had eggplant to use and an approaching deadline, so I made it.

fairytale eggplants

In the end, I was astonished by how delicious the pickled eggplant was, especially when removed from the jar, drizzled with olive oil and eaten on toast. I’ve made it several times and have even included a version of the recipe in my upcoming cookbook (of course, Linda is prominently credited as the inspiration).

slivered eggplants

In the past, the eggplant I used for pickling came from a standard bulbous eggplant (nothing fancy, it was just what I happened to have around). However, I’ve long thought that those beautiful, lavender-streaked fairy tale eggplants were an ideal candidate for pickling.

Last summer, I bought them twice with intention of suspending them in vinegar, but each time used them up in summer braises instead. So, when I saw a few baskets of pretty eggplant at the farmers market last Saturday, I forked over $6 for a quart so that I could finally execute my pickle plan.

blanch in boiling vinegar

This pickle does have a few steps, but isn’t actually particularly complicated. You 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).

in the vinegar

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.

pickled fairytale eggplant

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 (I like to use a garlic press for applications like this one), and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper 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.

two pints pickled fairytale eggplant

Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel (this removes any particulate matter 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).

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).

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48 thoughts on "Urban Preserving: Pickled Fairy Tale Eggplant"

  • Do you think this would also work well with Japanese eggplant? I haven’t done much canning or preserving…so sorry if it might be obvious. 🙂

  • They are beautiful, Marisa. Thanks for sharing. I don’t see these type of eggplant at my farmer’s market.

  • Now you’ve done it. I had a gorgeous eggplant ready to be tested using a great grilled recipe from the latest Bon Appetite BUT now you’ve got me thinking about switching. A second eggplant would do the trick but what’s the fun in that. I am in a pickling frenzy right now. I’ll let you know what wins.

  • This may be a silly question–does the basil go into the vinegar mixture or just mixed in wih the eggplant? I think my mother in law would live this recipe.

    1. The basil is tossed with the eggplant after it’s been removed from the vinegar and is then funneled into the jars with the eggplant.

  • Fairy tale eggplant are definitely my favourite eggplant variety and one of the vegetables I look forward to most during the summer! But they usually end up roasted with other vegetables until creamy and tossed with pasta or something like that. I’ve never had pickled eggplant before. What’s the texture like?

    1. I think they’re quite creamy, but some people might interpret the texture as slimy or mushy. If you have texture sensitivities, they might not be the right pickle for you.

  • This looks and sounds amazing! Have you ever tried it with an apple cider vinegar? I ask because I’ve found that I like my “pickles” with that vinegar flavor most of all (I’ve sworn off white and white wine vinegars in my pickling, even with asparagus). Though of course then it wouldn’t have that pink, fairy tale quality to the jar… Hmm

    1. I have not tried them with apple cider vinegar. I think that the red wine vinegar gives them good flavor, but I’m sure they’d also be good with apple cider. As long as they’re both 5% vinegar, they are interchangeable.

  • This looks wonderful. We only get purple eggplant here (we call them aubergines) so I will try it with them, but I might try growing some of these lilac ones in the greenhouse next year- just to make this! Thank you.

  • Looks wonderful…!!! I’m growing “little fingers eggplant” for the first time in my garden. Would they be a suitable candidate for this recipe? They are petite & slender (4-5 inches) and have a darker skin like a larger eggplant. Would they have more body after pickling if I were to cut them horizontally like circles instead of lengthwise into spears? I never thought to pickle them……wow…sounds delicious!!!

    1. Lisa, I’m sure your fingerling eggplant will work. I’ve not pickled them in rounds though, so I can’t speak to how they’ll turn out like that.

        1. Hi there! Sorry for interfering, but I just wanted to say that my mother has a very similar recipe for regular eggplants and she does cut them in rounds. They taste great…

          My mum’s recipe uses olive oil instead of the boiling vinegar for filling the jars. It’s an old family recipe and we all love it.

          But I am going to give yours a try… My eggplants are already cut and sweating in my kitchen counter. I will come back and tell how they turn out!

          1. Paula, the only reason this pickle is safe for boiling water bath canning is the presence of the vinegar. Packing these in oil and processing them would create a VERY low acid, unsafe pickle. Definitely not recommended.

  • This looks very interesting. I have a Fairy Tale Eggplant plant (eggplant plant?) in my tiny garden and it’s starting to produce. The spousal unit asked me to plant it even thought she doesn’t particularly enjoy eggplant (whut?) so I’m going to to try this with them. Thanks!

  • I tasted a friend’s similar recipe and my oh my it was delicious. I am anxious to try this – thank you!

  • Last year I pickled a larger variety of eggplant by making a 1/2″ dice of it and some bell peppers and then pickling it with red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt. It’s good with goat cheese on crackers, or mixed with chicken over greens.

    1. I toss them in salads. I put them out with a cheese platter at parties. I puree them into a spread with a little olive oil. I mash them on toast.

  • Stupid question here…

    In the photo of the slices in the colander the eggplant is still wearing its skin. In the jars, it appears tha the slivers have had their skin removed. Is tha so?

  • I can’t wait to try this! We love eggplant. When Karla said she added bell peppers I am wondering if they, too, should not be added to the vinegar when the eggplant is put in? What do you think. Do you have a dilly bean recipe? I have been searching for a good one. Thanks

  • Just made these last night, but substituted baby Indian eggplant (had some lying around that were about to go off). I’m going to give it about a week before tasting. Can’t wait to see how it turned out!

  • I tried this a couple of weekends ago. But, having made pickles several times in the past, I was concerned that the recipe liquid was 100% vinegar. All my pickle recipes and other I could find online used a combination of vinegar and water. Usually 50%. So I assumed that might have been omitted and went with a 50/50 ratio of water and vinegar. They are still very acidic, but not bad. I would probably add a little sugar (even though I am not a sweets person) to cut the acid, and a little salt to enhance the eggplant flavor. I got more eggplants to pickle and will be trying another round with those considerations.

    1. The recipe uses 100% vinegar because eggplant are quite low in acid on their own and they also have a goodly amount of water content in them, so they will add some moisture to the party.

  • So sad to be missing you by just a week at Union Square! If you get a chance between traveling, could you please clarify how many eggplants are in a quart? These are sold loose at my local market. Thanks!!

    1. The typical quart will hold about 1 1/2 pounds, but since eggplants tend to be on the lighter side, it may be a few ounces less than that. So sorry that I didn’t weight the eggplant when I made this.

  • I love the sound of your recipe and will have to try it the next time I see these beauties! I do have a question though. I have a recipe that soaks the eggplant slivers in cider vinegar for hours and then you strain them and mix them with herbs, garlic and olive oil. Do you think it would still can up fine in a water bath? I have never canned anything with olive oil but would love the option of not having them in the fridge,

  • I used slender Japanese eggplant, cut into 1/4″ rounds. Sadly, at the 2 minute mark in the boiling vinegar, they virtually disintegrated. Not sure what went wrong Any suggestions? Kind of a shame, since I was so eager to try this that I doubled the recipe. 🙁

      1. Thanks! Might you suggest a more appropriate thickness? Spears are less conducive to the half pint jars I’d like to use, so I’m inclined to try again with the rounds. Really appreciate your site and all your delicious-sounding recipes!

        1. I only make this pickle with those small eggplants, so I honestly don’t know what thickness would be best if you’re using rounds.

  • what if I only boiled them for 1 minute instead of 2? Or maybe didn’t boil at all? would that work to keep them not as mushy in the long run?

    1. This is never going to be a crisp pickle. It is tender by design. I wouldn’t cut the cooking time short.

    1. The color starts to fade at the 6-9 month mark. It’s safe after that point, but it isn’t quite as appealing.

    1. I’m not at all certain. Perhaps about 500g, since eggplant is quite light. It’s been almost a decade since I last made this pickle, so I can’t be perfectly sure.

  • Would these be safe as refridgerator pickles? I just started playing with pickles this summer and haven’t quite worked up the nerve for water bath canning.

    1. You could certainly do these as fridge pickles! Make the recipe as written and skip the processing step.