I learned of Makdous (Syrian eggplant preserved in olive oil) from the Syrian Cooking blog. They are traditionally made with baby eggplants and stuffed with walnuts and sun-dried tomatoes and served with almost any meal. My recipe is a big turn from tradition so I encourage you to go to the source to learn more about the traditional recipe as well as many great Syrian recipes.
Food is preserved in olive oil in many countries around the world. North American safety standards are far more cautious than many cultures and countries – for example, garlic left to marinate in olive oil on the counter is considered exceptionally risky and extremely dangerous in North America as the lack of oxygen created by the olive oil can create the perfect environment for botulism to thrive in. There are many countries worldwide who don’t have the same sense of caution with this recipe. I grew up in a house that routinely did this and can’t imagine doing it today – when I marinate garlic and olive oil I do so in the fridge and try to consume it within 10 days.
I mention the use of the fridge because it is the biggest variation in technique that I have made from the source. We transferred the jar of eggplant to the fridge immediately after covering with olive oil. What we gain in safety we lose in convenience and aesthetics – the cold temperatures of the fridge solidified the oil and made it cloudy at the same time. This is easily overcome by removing the jar or a few pieces of eggplant and allowing them to come to room temperature before serving.
I also opted for small, long eggplants because it is what was available. They fit very well inside a wide-mouth mason jar. I highly recommend packing them tightly to prevent floating. Stuff all of your eggplants before filling the jar – by waiting to fill the jar at the end it is easier to pack and keep the veggies from losing their filling.
This was indeed a messy recipe – and I’m a mess at the best of times! Using a big cutting board helped contain the mess and I recommend you doing the same.
- 5-6 small, long eggplants
- ½ - ¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup walnut, chopped
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Place eggplants in boiling water and weigh them down (placing another pot on top will do) to prevent floating.
- Boil until slightly soft (they should still hold their shape when you hole them by one end. About 3-5 minutes.
- Transfer to an ice bath to cool.
- Trim each end of the eggplants to the length of the jar (I try to make sure they are shorter than the shoulder of the jar).
- Slit the eggplant like a hot dog bun, making sure not to cut in half. Place on a cookie sheet or a plate and liberally scatter with salt (including inside the slit). You want to use more salt than you'd cook with - this will help release the liquid and help the eggplant keep it's shape when marinating in olive oil).
- Place another cookie sheet or plate on top of the eggplant and cover with 5-10 cookbooks to help push the water out from the veg. Leave for 4-6 hours.
- Rinse the eggplant (including the insides) thoroughly to remove salt. You may want to taste the eggplant - if it's too salty continue to rinse (resist the urge to soak them as this can make them absorb the water you just removed).
- Combine the feta and walnut and carefully fill each eggplant. They will take more stuffing than you expect. Push firmly to 'close' the eggplant which will help it hold the stuffing in.
- Place any remaining filling at the bottom of a clean wide-mouth mason jar. Carefully add the eggplants and cover in olive oil. Transfer to fridge (read the note above about cloudiness/solidifying of the contents).
- After 5 days they will be ready and should be eaten within the next 5-10 days or frozen for longer storage.
A giant shout-out to our friend AJ Messier of Hogtown Studios in Toronto for working with us to shoot this months photos. He let us take over his studio for a day (I made a HECK of a mess!) and the 3 of us had a blast shooting and are so grateful for his talent and friendship. AJ often shoots sports, motion, weddings and other topics – head over to his site and check out his work!