Pickled Peppers & Eggplant

A guest post by the wonderful Joe Fray...

Recently, Becky and I found a fun, delicious hobby. We've begun to pickle. Becky found an article in one of her plethora of food mags with what appeared to be simple pickle recipes. We made a batch of pickled cucumbers and carrots. It took twenty minutes, they were ready the next day, and they were delicious. We got a little more daring and pickled some brussel sprouts and sweet peppers. Both came out perfectly again. After that we were hooked.

I've taken the lead on doing most of the pickling because I get some sort of dorky pleasure out of it, and I'm painstakingly precise in my measurements, often to Becky's annoyance. So, for Christmas Becky got me a pickling recipe book (from which the two recipes below were taken), and our pickling has since reached new and interesting levels. We've pickled onions (excellent with bread and a sharp cheddar), cauliflower (one batch was yellow, the other pink), watermelon rinds (probably won't be making those again), and eggs (surprisingly good, though I need a better method for peeling hard boiled eggs). I've also just started my first batch of fermented pickles (sour through natural fermentation in saltwater rather than from vinegar), but I'll have to update you later on how those turn out.

Pickling is as simple as mixing a fresh or very lightly cooked vegetable with seasoning and vinegar.  That's it. All you need is the ingredients and a jar.  The jars are easy to find; we have a mix of screw top jars from Sur La Table and flip tops from Ikea and the Container Store.

The two recipes below are incredibly easy and are definitely our favorites so far (batch two of the peppers is just about gone).
Refrigerator Pickled Peppers
From The Joy of Pickling
  • 1 pound bell peppers, preferably of mixed colors, cut into strips
  • Half a celery stalk with leaves, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon pickling salt (a.k.a. fine sea salt) (if using kosher salt, add an extra 1/2 teaspoon -- do not use iodized table salt)
In a large bowl, toss the peppers with the celery, garlic, and fennel. Pack the vegetables and seeds with the bay leaf into a quart sized jar. Combine the water and vinegar, and dissolve the salt in the liquid. Pour the brine over the vegetables. Close and refrigerate the jar. The peppers will be ready in a week. Refrigerated, they will keep well for 6 to 8 weeks. 

Quick Pickled Eggplant with Basil
From The Joy of Pickling
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pickling salt (a.k.a. fine sea salt) (if using kosher salt, add an extra 1/2 teaspoon -- do not use iodized table salt)
  • 2 medium-large eggplants (about 3 1/4 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
In a saucepan, bring the water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add half the eggplant cubes and simmer them for about 5 minutes, until they are tender. Put them in a colander and cook the remaining eggplant cubes in the same way. Add them to the colander and rinse and drain all of the eggplant. In a quart sized jar, mix the cooked eggplant cubes with the vinegar, basil, pepper, garlic, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. (There will not be enough liquid in the jar to cover all the eggplant, but that's okay -- just shake the jar around whenever you get a chance.) Cover the jar and refrigerate it for at least 8 hours. The eggplant will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator. Just before serving, stir in the olive oil.