In elementary school I had a classmate whose mother would send her with pickled eggplant for lunch. To an 11-year old they looked kinda gross at first but then I tasted them. They were so exotic and tart, I was in awe; we never had this kind of stuff at our house! Though I never actually got the recipe, what kid ever asks, I found one that I fiddled a bit with and works for me. If you have one that’s better, please let me know.
4 med eggplants, peeled, trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
4 tsp. coarse sea salt
3 cups white vinegar or red wine
4 cloves of garlic – 2 peeled, 2 unpeeled
10 black peppercorns
10-15 sprigs fresh thyme, rinsed and patted dry
3 bay leaves
1-1/2 cups good quality olive oil
Place the eggplant slices in a colander, sprinkle them with the salt, and let drain for 1-1/2 hours over a bowl. Rinse and gently pat dry.
Put the eggplant in a large pot and add the vinegar, unpeeled garlic cloves, 5 of the peppercorns, a handful of the thyme leaves and 2 of the bay leaves. Bring this to a boil over medium-hight heat. Reduce this to a simmer for 25 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool off.
When it’s cool, put it in a jar or container with tight fitting lid large enough to hold it all comfortably. Add the rest of the thyme, peeled garlic cloves, the last bay leaf and the rest of the peppercorns. Gently push the ingredients down into the eggplant. Slowly and carefully pour in the olive oil so it gets everywhere in the container.
Cover this and refrigerate for 3 weeks. You’ll need to check this occasionally to be sure there is a very thin layer of oil on top – add more oil if you need to.