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Eggplant: to salt or not to salt


Starkman
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Hello all,

Because eggplant is watery and can be bitter, most recipes advocate salting eggplant, letting it drain and then rinsing it before using/cooking it. However, I've seen recipes where there's no salting. If it weren't for the fact that one recipe salts the eggplant but a similar recipe doesn't, it'd probably be pretty easy to figure out why the similar recipes do not salt the eggplant.

So my question is when, if ever, is it okay to NOT salt eggplant before using it?

Thanks,

Starkman

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I heard that when they are young and have less seeds the bitterness factor is nonexistent. And since salt draws out the water.... my unscientific conclusion would be "It would be okay to not salt eggplants when they are young/tender and you don't care about the amount of moisture that comes out during the cooking process"

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Hello all,

Because eggplant is watery and can be bitter, most recipes advocate salting eggplant, letting it drain and then rinsing it before using/cooking it. However, I've seen recipes where there's no salting. If it weren't for the fact that one recipe salts the eggplant but a similar recipe doesn't, it'd probably be pretty easy to figure out why the similar recipes do not salt the eggplant.

So my question is when, if ever, is it okay to NOT salt eggplant before using it?

Thanks,

Starkman

The easiest thing to do is take a bite of the raw eggplant and see if it's bitter. I find that with a really bitter one, even salting doesn't really help, so I compost them and start over. I gave up salting them years ago.

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The easiest thing to do is take a bite of the raw eggplant and see if it's bitter. I find that with a really bitter one, even salting doesn't really help, so I compost them and start over. I gave up salting them years ago.

Exactly right Lisa. The small ones I buy are never bitter: dwarfs, globes, snakes.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

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When I first started cooking I used to salt as recommended in the recipe.

After a while I stopped and have not really noticed a difference.

More recently I read somewhere (sorry I read a lot of food articles, can't remember exact source) that the eggplants we tend to get in Australia are not as bitter as ones that are used in many others places around the world.

I'd definitely support tasting first and deciding to salt on the basis of actual flavour rather than just slavishly following a recipe that may have used functionally different base ingredients.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
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Can I ask an additional question? I don't salt, because I have never found a problem with bitterness. But, I do notice a tingling sensation on my lips when I eat aubergine dishes - I am beginning to wonder if this is the "bitterness"? Is it normal?

Catherine

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I've never encountered a bitter eggplant in the Philippines and here in Korea. Maybe it's a regional thing?

I've never seen or heard of bitter eggplants, either. In Japan, it is a common practice to soak eggplants in cold water for "aku nuki" (lit. harshness removal) after cutting.

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I agree with Lisa--if it is a bitter, seedy eggplant, no amount of salting will help. If you take care to choose a firm, glossy eggplant, you shouldn't have a problem with bitterness. I haven't salted in probably 20 years.

Another thing I've noticed--there is hardly such a thing as an underripe eggplant. I'm exaggerating a little, of course, but I have noticed from my cold-climate experiments with growing them that even the ones that are nowhere near mature when the first frost hits taste perfectly fine.

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Can I ask an additional question?  I don't salt, because I have never found a problem with bitterness.  But, I do notice a tingling sensation on my lips when I eat aubergine dishes - I am beginning to wonder if this is the "bitterness"? Is it normal?

Catherine

First thought is an allergy but could also be a sensitivity to the low level alkaloids present in eggplants. I know it is only one member of the nightshade family but I sometimes get some a little mouth sensation with an astringent seedy eggplant.

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I've never encountered a bitter eggplant in the Philippines and here in Korea. Maybe it's a regional thing?

I've never seen or heard of bitter eggplants, either. In Japan, it is a common practice to soak eggplants in cold water for "aku nuki" (lit. harshness removal) after cutting.

I'm assuming you're not getting the ginourmous eggplants that we get in the US. I assume you're getting the long slender " japanese eggplants".

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I've never encountered a bitter eggplant in the Philippines and here in Korea. Maybe it's a regional thing?

I've never seen or heard of bitter eggplants, either. In Japan, it is a common practice to soak eggplants in cold water for "aku nuki" (lit. harshness removal) after cutting.

I'm assuming you're not getting the ginourmous eggplants that we get in the US. I assume you're getting the long slender " japanese eggplants".

We get both here in Australia and neither are really bitter; go figure.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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As a rule, Asian eggplants do not need to be salted because they are not bitter; Italian eggplants do need a salting (or as Alton Brown describes it, "purging") to reduce bitterness.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

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Hi,

You may also pre-cook (microwave works nicely) and press pieces of eggplant to remove water. This allows for quicker browning with less oil and eliminates unwanted liquid in certain dishes.

In my experience, bitterness is strongly associated with the variety and age of the eggplant. A really large black beauty with lots of seeds can be very bitter. An equally sized rosa bianca will be wonderfully mild. The smaller varieties all seem milder than the large varieties.

Tim

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Hi,

You may also pre-cook (microwave works nicely) and press pieces of eggplant to remove water.  This allows for quicker browning with less oil and eliminates unwanted liquid in certain dishes.

In my experience, bitterness is strongly associated with the variety and age of the eggplant.  A really large black beauty with lots of seeds can be very bitter.  An equally sized rosa bianca will be wonderfully mild.    The smaller varieties all seem milder than the large varieties.

Tim

I used Cook's Illustrated's recipe for ratatouille, in which the eggplant is peeled, cubed, salted, rested, and rinsed, then pressed between several thicknesses of paper towels. As Tim said, it cuts the oil absorption dramatically and eliminates extraneous liquid.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

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Can I ask an additional question?  I don't salt, because I have never found a problem with bitterness.  But, I do notice a tingling sensation on my lips when I eat aubergine dishes - I am beginning to wonder if this is the "bitterness"? Is it normal?

Catherine

First thought is an allergy but could also be a sensitivity to the low level alkaloids present in eggplants. I know it is only one member of the nightshade family but I sometimes get some a little mouth sensation with an astringent seedy eggplant.

I'll try salting, I think, see if it makes a difference.

C

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Totally agree on the pressing -- I do this salt-rest-rinse-press thing every time I saute eggplant. What I wanted to mention is that I never bother with the paper towels -- I just take handfuls and squeeze them as hard as I can -- basically wringing the water out of them. They compress considerably, which helps me get more in the saute pan (since they always shrink down anyway when cooked), and I get so much more water out then paper towels would be able to handle...

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It seems pretty clear from everyone's posts here that the real benefit from salting is to reduce moisture, which I knew about.

It's good to have learned a bit about the different varieties of eggplant, specifically, those that tend to be more or less bitter than others.

Thanks,

Starkman

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The primary value of salting isn't about the aku or bitterness, but it makes a small difference. (Some varieties of eggplant, such as the spherical Turkish one that turns red when it's overripe, are bitter unless consumed prior to peak ripeness, and salting doesn't help that at all). It does result in some dark colors being removed, but this is basically what is called "aku" in Japanese, and isn't particularly bitter.

The main reason to salt is for texture. Unsalted eggplant will turn mushy faster when cooked than salted eggplant. You'll reliably get a firmer texture, even with braised eggplant, when salting.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

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Can I ask an additional question?  I don't salt, because I have never found a problem with bitterness.  But, I do notice a tingling sensation on my lips when I eat aubergine dishes - I am beginning to wonder if this is the "bitterness"? Is it normal?

Catherine

First thought is an allergy but could also be a sensitivity to the low level alkaloids present in eggplants. I know it is only one member of the nightshade family but I sometimes get some a little mouth sensation with an astringent seedy eggplant.

i also get that tingling sensation... i can't stand it. I stopped eating eggplant for a while because of it, though in Israel i have a found what is called a "baladi" eggplant... it's wider and has lots of ripples and creases on it.... tastes better and doesn't have the tingling

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