Lebanese Pickled Eggplant Stuffed with Garlic

One of our best, best friends is an adventurous fermenter, pickle fanatic, and fellow farmer with a very refined palette - so when he told me that he'd been dreaming of these pickled eggplants since I made them last season, I took note. I loved slicing them up and putting them on sandwiches with hummus, or on a salad, or as an appetizer with olives, but Justin just ate them by the jar. They were gone before he even know what was happening, and then he longed for them all year. Coming from him, that's quite a compliment.

All year I promised him we would make a gigantic batch this season, and the time has come. Last weekend we gathered in the evening, at far too late an hour to be starting such a project, and went into production. We made 12 quarts, but may decide to make more this week, just in case, for stockpiling. We're assuming a "can't ever have too many" position, because they really are that good.

Maybe you're like us and have hundreds of pounds of eggplants in your walk-in, or maybe you just have a few long skinny ones left over in the fridge. Either way, make these pickles with the small, long, skinny asian varieties that we grow, and don't skimp on the garlic and cayenne. These should be spicy and very flavorful. They'll get you through winter that way.

These quantities are for one quart, so scale up accordingly:

1 - 1 1/2 pounds of small, long eggplants
1 garlic head, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon pickling salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1. Steam the eggplants for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they are tender but not mushy. 
2. Mix the crushed garlic with salt and cayenne. Slit each eggplant lengthwise, cutting most of the way through. Stuff the eggplants with the garlic mixture. Pack the eggplants into the jar.
3. Boil vinegar and water, then let cool. Fill the jar to the brim with the cooled liquid.
4. Store in the fridge for at least three weeks, but these pickles will stay good in the fridge for a few months at least.

Adapted from Linda Ziedrich's Joy of Pickling.