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Pickled aubergines from La Mancha

>> Monday, August 22, 2011

Berenjenas Almagro 2

No, I was not missing. I was on vacation. The summer is hot here in the Spanish plateau, so we always flee from here for at least a week and head north. To wherever north. But... to the point: this post deals with Almagro aubergines or berenjenas. Almagro is a beautiful village in the plain of La Mancha, packed with historic highlights and known for its lacemakers and yearly Classical Theater festival. But also for its pickled baby aubergines. I love them. In Madrid you can spot them canned in any good food shop or supermarket, but I had never found them fresh. Till last week. I entered my favourite greengrocer's and there they were. Plump and fresh, waiting for me. So I felt the urge to buy 4 pounds, just in case. In case I get a craving for pickled baby aubergines in the middle of the winter.


Berenjenas Almagro 3

Almagro aubergines are a unique product from several villages of La Mancha. They are harvested while still small and unripe, and marinated in a dressing that normally includes vinegar, salt, cumin, garlic, sweet pimentón and olive oil in varying amounts, where they must remain up to a week before being eaten. They are sometimes stuffed with sweet red pepper. Like all things pickled or marinated, they are very easy to prepare, so their secret lies in the quality of the product and the seasoning. I especially love them on a bread slice, oozing their red sour juices. They are served as a tapa in the land of Don Quixote. I first tasted these eggplants an indecent amount of time ago, while visiting Almagro on a lacespotting expedition. I used to make bobbin lace before I had any kids. Sigh...

Being that Almagro aubergines are hard to find outside La Mancha, you can always try with any baby aubergines you might find.

Pickled aubergines Almagro style

  • 4 pounds (2kg) baby aubergines
  • 1 head garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp sweet Spanish pimentón
  • 3 heaped tbsp salt
  • 2 cups (500ml) cider vinegar
  • Virgin olive oil to taste
  • Water to boil the aubergines
Berenjenas Almagro 1
  1. Cut the stalk of the aubergines and half the leaves, and wash thoroughly.
  2. Fill a large pan with water and bring to a boil. Cook the aubergines 5-7 minutes. Then drain and transfer immediately to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Do not throw away your cooking water because it can be used to be added later to the pickling mixture. (The poor aubergines lose their beautiful color the moment they touch the hot water and adopt a greenish-brown hue, but nobody is perfect.)
  3. When cool, cut them lengthwise on one side.
  4. Prepare the dressing by mashing the garlic to a paste, then add all other ingredients. You can put everything, except the water and the oil, in a blender or food processor. A few pulses and it's ready.
  5. Place the drained aubergines in a clay pot (that's the traditional way) then add the pickling mixture. Top with the cooking water to almost cover the aubergines and then add a good glug of virgin olive oil. I recommend to try the pickling liquid, and add vinegar and salt if it is too weak, or water if too strong. Note that the pickling liquid should be on the strong side to impart enough flavor to the aubergines.
  6. Let stand one week in the fridge, tossing from time to time. After four days you can try an aubergine to check the flavor and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  7. These pickled aubergines can be preserved; my recommendations for that are the following:
    • Fill the jars leaving the smallest top space possible, well covering the vegetables with the marinade.
    • Use good quality vinegar of at least 6-7%.
    • Use containers and lids of glass or glazed ceramic, which are unaffected by acid.
    • Always use a wooden spoon to remove the vegetable pieces from the jars.
    • It is not necessary to sterilize the jars as the antiseptic action of vinegar prevents the growth of bugs (in spite of that I keep my jars in the refrigerator, just to be on the safe side). They keep at least for a month.
Berenjenas Almagro 4

Now I can face the end of summer sure that my family won't run short of aubergines in a while... Winter is coming.

7 comentarios:

bellini August 22, 2011 at 1:16 PM  

I do love all things pickled.

Belinda @zomppa August 22, 2011 at 2:21 PM  

Absolutely beautiful and inviting! I wish we had gotten to come visit you while walking the Camino for some of this food!

Tamara August 22, 2011 at 4:40 PM  

love the recipe, I adore pickled things :) these tiny aubergines are too cute :)

peachie August 22, 2011 at 10:31 PM  

I haven't heard of pickled aubergine before but i'm a lover of aubergines so i think i'll really like this dish!

Aldy @ Al Dente Gourmet August 23, 2011 at 2:32 AM  

*Breath-taking*!!! Unas fotos bellisimas y la receta bueno deliciosa :)

Abrazos,

Aldy.

Claudie August 23, 2011 at 6:22 PM  

That's the first time I see a recipe with baby aubergines -- they look so cute, and I would love to try your recipe if I manage to find some.

PS: stunning photos!

Trix August 24, 2011 at 2:11 PM  

Is the last sentence in your post a reference to Game of Thrones? (I am dork.) I haven't seen pickled baby aubergines ... they are so cute. I will keep an eye out for baby ones at the farmers market, this would be fun to make. Where did you go on holiday? I hope you will share photos soon!!

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