There’s that magical moment during the gardening season when the eggplants, onions, celery, peppers and tomatoes are ready for harvesting all at the same time and that’s the time to make Caponata, the exquisite Sicilian concoction that enlivens the palate with the rich flavors of late summer vegetables and the ‘agrodolce’ sparkle of vinegar, olives, capers and herbs. Most of the ingredients come from my garden, however, this queen of condiments cannot be prepared without copious amounts of good olive oil, and, of course, the capers and olives. The real skill here is time, lots and lots of time. The dice of the eggplant must be 1/2″ to 3/4″. The eggplant must be salted and left to weep its water content for a few hours, and then wrung tightly in a towel to squeeze out every last drop of moisture. (It’s best to have two people do this), and when it’s fried, it must be evenly brown. Not burnt, not just golden, but BROWN. The celery and peppers ( not all recipes include peppers) must be fried till they are almost brown. The onions must be brown, not golden, not wilted, BROWN. The tomatoes must be peeled and rid of their seeds. The whole process takes many hours, 6 at the minimum. The olive oil must be top quality, the capers and olives as well. The vinegar, well, after all this work, why not use a good quality balsamic vinegar? I hedge my bets, using our own apple cider vinegar to ensure adequate acid when preparing the tomato sauce component, and then finish it off with a large dose of rich balsamic vinegar for flavor and color. Salt? A dear friend brought back some wonderful Sel de Guerantes which adds another layer of richness, but any old salt will do (you might not even need it since the eggplant’s been salted).
We preserve our Caponata by processing it in a pressure canner (25 minutes at 5 lbs. pressure), as this is really the only guaranteed safe way to preserve it. (You could try the boiling water bath method but this is not recommended. If you decide to risk this, I suggest you double the amount of vinegar to ensure a higher acidity level).
Recipe. I follow the late Leslie Land’s recipe, which I’ve linked below. I alter the recipe somewhat by adding a dash of cinnamon, green bell peppers and sometimes raisins.
If you try making this let me know how it turns out. Cheers.