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Salting aubergine (eggplant) - obsolete?

Elster Jun 26, 2012 06:31 AM

Most aubergine recipes I find tell you to 'degorge' the flesh by heavily salting it and weighting it for about half an hour or more. I've recently heard, however, that modern varieties of aubergine no longer contain those horrible bitter compounds that the salting is supposed to draw out, and so theoretically you could skip this step and avoid the extra effort, time and salt it asks for. Is this true? Or does the salting have another purpose beyond drawing out bitter flavours? I have to say, I have tried both ways various times and have never really been able to put my finger on any real difference, but am definitely no expert... Looking forward to hearing from aubergine/eggplant veterans!

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  1. drongo Jun 26, 2012 06:35 AM

    Salting and pressing removes water -- which may be more important than removing bitterness.

    1. Delucacheesemonger Jun 26, 2012 06:47 AM

      As l don't like excess salt, l saute in a non-stick pan or on grill with no fat, and the salt is not needed.

      1. p
        pine time Jun 26, 2012 12:42 PM

        I vote for obsolete. I never salt/weight eggplant/aubergine/brinjal any more, any variety.

        1. b
          bitchincook Jun 26, 2012 12:50 PM

          I didn't salt eggplant/aubergine in the past, but recently I discovered that salting it causes it to absorb much less oil. The end product is also firmer to the bite. As much as I hate doing extra work, the result is very much worth it to me.

          1. herby Jun 26, 2012 12:52 PM

            I always salt and never weight. Salting closes those pores that otherwise will suck as much oil as you give them! Claudia Roden's method to soak eggplant in milk seems to work too.

            1. Peg Jun 26, 2012 01:27 PM

              I slice then salt overnight then rinse, The aubergines shrivel a bit, but can be fried without absorbing oil.

              1. twyst Jun 26, 2012 01:30 PM

                Depends on how they are being cooked, and "females" seem to need it more than "males". "Female" eggplant should be generally avoided IMHO if you are buying from the store, but if you buy by the case or grow them you get what you get :(

                I do realize their is no real female and male difference in plants, but there is a lot of truth to the oval vs circle dimple thing.

                1. t
                  tardigrade Jun 26, 2012 01:36 PM

                  It may have to do with the type of eggplant - most of the recipes I've seen that call for salting assume you're using one of the big Italian-style ones. I usually use the long, thin Japanese or Chinese varieties, which don't usually call for salting. (I usually grill them, but that's another topic)

                  1. h
                    Harters Jun 26, 2012 01:42 PM

                    It's years since I salted aubergine to reduce bitterness.

                    As others have said, sometimes you want to salt to achieve a particular texture before cooking.

                    1. gingershelley Jun 26, 2012 02:51 PM

                      I salt to reduce the water in the aubergine, and to assist with less oil absorption; don't usually find the bitterness present, but do like the texture best if I salt.

                      I only do it for about 20-30 minutes or when water starts to bead up on eggplant slices/cubes, then wipe off (I don't rinse - it just adds back water!). Usually don't need much salt in a recipe after this, but check for taste as I go.

                      1. dave_c Jun 26, 2012 03:00 PM

                        I've salted globe eggplant and not. Never noticed a difference, but I've never done a side-by-side comparison either.

                        I vote for obsolete.

                        1. z
                          zzDan Jun 26, 2012 03:54 PM

                          I know it is hard to do ahead of time. But you can quarter or eighth the eggplant lengthwise and let it sit for 24 hours. It will dry out a bit and concentrate flavor. Put it out in the sun and it will go quicker. Salting pulls out some of the eggplant flavors

                          1. s
                            sandylc Jun 26, 2012 09:19 PM

                            I vote for salting for both texture and flavor. If I skip it I do sometimes taste bitterness; it does depend upon the individual eggplant.

                            1. e
                              escondido123 Jun 26, 2012 09:20 PM

                              Tried salting a few times, didn't see a major difference so haven't done it in 20 years.

                              1. l
                                laliz Jun 27, 2012 08:11 AM

                                I always salt using coarse Kosher salt (not very much though), layer in paper towels, don't use a weight, don't rinse

                                1. greygarious Jun 27, 2012 08:56 AM

                                  I have read that for the big purple globe eggplants, the older they are, the bitterer. So it is best to buy them early in the harvest, when the seeds haven't yet darkened.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: greygarious
                                    hollyd Jun 27, 2012 09:12 AM

                                    yep. If the seeds are dark when I cut it I salt between paper towels (no weight). if they're light, I skip it.

                                  2. DavidA06488 Jul 8, 2012 05:38 PM

                                    I salt for both texture and to remove water. If the seeds are dark, I salt heavier, and wait longer before drying, Dark seeds seem to indicate more bitterness as well. All the more reason to salt IMHO.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: DavidA06488
                                      p
                                      pecandanish Jul 9, 2012 08:21 AM

                                      i think the seeds darken as the aubergine ages in the fridge. i havent salted for years and an finding bitterness to be the most difficult but rewarding tastes in all of food.

                                      the other tastes are accessible (even umami), easy-going and grow on you without any fuss. No recipes are too badly damaged by bit more salt, another chilli, a little sugar but bitterness is elusive and risky and can turn your dinner in an instant from unbrdled joy to disaster. from caramel to griddled aubergines to orange marmalade to baked figs to roasted quinoa there is an incredibly fine margin between total success and abject failure

                                      1. re: pecandanish
                                        DavidA06488 Jul 9, 2012 10:39 AM

                                        I often find that the seeds are dark to begin with. Bitter can be nice counterpart taste, but find the bitterness in an eggplant objectionable. I agree with you that there is a finer line with the flavor than with the others.

                                    2. c
                                      ctfoodguy Jul 9, 2012 10:36 AM

                                      I always salt eggplant, never with weights and than rinse after about 30-40 minutes. I find it to be a better texture, not as bitter and absorbs less fat.

                                      1. d
                                        demitasse04 Jul 9, 2012 10:40 AM

                                        Tried salting and rinsing once; got horribly salty eggplant. Never have had this mythical bitter stuff. I find that eggplant does beautifully when just baked with a light brushing of oil.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: demitasse04
                                          DavidA06488 Jul 9, 2012 11:05 AM

                                          Supermarket eggplants tend to be seedy and bitter I find. Rather than throwing it out, I salt and dry after a half hour. I find the salt wipes away with the moisture. A nice moderately sized eggplant from a farmers' market won't be that way. Try just grilling OO-brushed thick slices outside, then sprinkling with good balsamic vinegar and serving at room temperature. No need to use S&P.

                                        2. j
                                          JudiAU Jul 9, 2012 03:34 PM

                                          I don't find most eggplant bitter but I do salt. It removes water, reduces oil absorption, and give you a much better seasoned dish

                                          1. f
                                            frannieface77 Jul 9, 2012 03:39 PM

                                            My mother grills first (blackened skins), then places them on a slanted cutting board (or some other method of draining) until the excess moisture has run out, then cooks them in my favorite eggplant recipe (with onions and tomatoes, yum).

                                            1. Elster Jul 9, 2012 03:41 PM

                                              I was taught a technique for cooking aubergine once which supposedly draws out the bitter flavours while cooking it - not sure if this is true but either way it's quick and very tasty. You heat a pan dry on a high heat, then place the cut sides of a lengthways-cut aubergine down on the hot pan bottom and let them sear for 3 mins or until they're a bit browned. You can see droplets of moisture forming on the skin of the fruit which the chef told me was apparently the bitter juices coming through (again, not hugely convinced but hey). Once the aubergine is browned on the open side you very quickly throw over a mixture of spices, garlic, a glug of olive oil and a glug of cold water and then very quickly wham the pan lid on and let the whole thing steam for five minutes. When you take the lid off you have this incredibly tender, aromatic aubergine which you can dress or eat with anything :)

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