Caponata is a traditional Sicilian dish made with eggplants and tomatoes. It is also one of my favorite things to eat in the world. I started making it four years ago when I found a recipe in the newspaper. I followed the recipe and it made a very large quantity that the folks at the potluck did not eat up.
But it was delicious, so I decided to try it again next year and that year I canned some of it. Bingo!
Every year, I make this recipe. Depending on the size of your eggplants, this will make 8-10 cups, which would be 4-5 pints if you plan on canning the whole thing. I know it’s a bad year for tomatoes, but maybe you can scrounge up three pounds of them somewhere. If all else fails, you could probably just buy a can or two, especially if you have fresh eggplant hanging around.
Caponata is good on crackers, or right out of the jar with a spoon when no one’s looking.
2 medium-sized eggplants, cut int 1/2-inch cubes
2 T. coarse salt
5 T. olive oil (Honestly, I don’t measure the oil for a recipe like this.)
2 diced red onions
2 T. minced garlic
3 lbs. diced ripe plum tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste (OK, if you don’t have this, you can leave it out. I did this year.)
Salt, to taste
1 C. diced celery and leaves
1/3 C. pitted green olives, halved
1/3 C. balsamic vinegar
1/3 C. golden raisins
2 T. drained tiny capers
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Toss the diced eggplant in a colander with the salt. Let rest for 1 hour. Rinse eggplant lightly and blot with a clean tea towel to remove the excess water, then squeeze. Set aside. (This step is really important because it helps to remove the bitterness from the eggplant.)
Heat 2 T. of the oil in a heavy pot over low heat. Add the onions, stirring occasionally, until softened. Cook about 7 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and salt. Stirring occasionally, simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the celery and simmer 10 minutes longer.
In another heavy pot, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Brown the eggplant pieces in batches, then remove to the lined bowl to drain.
Stir the eggplant into the tomato sauce along with the olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, and pepper. Simmer (do not boil) 5 minutes, partially covered, over low heat for the flavors to blend. Uncover and simmer 5 minutes longer. Adjust the seasonings.
If you wish to can this, use in a hot water bath. Process pint jars for about 15 minutes. You’ll find some great instructions here.