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Technique: How to Squeeze an Eggplant

Long ago, I threatened to post the unlovely but effective method of peeling cooked eggplants that I learned the hard way, in a kibbutz kitchen. We used to make baba ghanouj routinely for a thousand members–something like 50 to 75 baked eggplants went into it each time, mixed in a stand mixer the size of a wheelbarrow with a base that was cemented into the floor. You can’t be fooling around with spoons and forks when you’re working on that scale. Instead, we cooled the eggplants in a huge colander and then started squeezing them out as though they were pastry bags or tubes of toothpaste.

It takes a bit of practice…to say the least. But each eggplant only takes about half a minute to empty into the colander, and once you get the method down, the skin stays together and is just about completely clean inside. Very effective. Not very dignified, though, unless you do it enough to get good at it.

However, since I have no vanity whatsoever, I finally took some pictures (not easy to shoot while actually squeezing the eggplants, so don’t expect photogenic–eggplant is only pretty raw…) and have steeled myself to walk you through it. Wear goggles and a hairnet the first time if you’re afraid of flying goop, or make your little sister do it first. And don’t forget to rinse your hands (and arms) well right afterward, because the juice is still a bit caustic and will make them itch after awhile. Anyway, the following is for if your little sister refuses to take the bait.  Click directly on any of the pictures if you want a closer view.

How to Squeeze an Eggplant

First, microwave your eggplant(s) (best if you’re only doing up to 3; any more and it’s worth roasting them for a whole hour in the oven at 400F). Scrub them well, cut off the cap (watch out for thorns!), rub or sprinkle a little salt on the damp skins, and set them to microwave 10 minutes on HIGH, until they’re soft and collapsed.

whole eggplant before microwaving for baba ghanouj

Whole eggplant prepped to microwave for baba ghanouj

Eggplant after microwaving

After microwaving 10 minutes, the eggplant has collapsed

Next, let the eggplant cool enough to handle–this is probably the most important part. Trying to squeeze out a scalding eggplant leads to explosions of scalding eggplant goop, plus the peel usually toughens a little as it cools, which makes ruptures a little less likely.

–Am I making it sound good yet? No?–hang in there.

Poking the eggplant

The all-important poke

Set the cooling eggplant cut-end-down in a colander over a bowl to drain off some of the juices. If you have the asbestos-like fingers for it, you can poke a hole in the cut end while it’s still hot and earn yourself untold macho points as long as you only wince after you’ve slunk off to the bathroom. Never let ’em see you cry. If you’re not that brash, you’ll have to poke a hole in the cut end once it cools. That’s the easy part.

Once the eggplant’s cooled enough to wrap your hands around it, it’s showtime. Keep the cut end facing down.

Grab the eggplant like a pastry bag, cut end down

Grab the eggplant like a pastry bag, cut end down

Cup your hands around the fat round end at the top and very gradually push in and downward, closing your hands over the top, until the pulp inside starts to give (it should be moving down toward the hole you poked in the cut end, not up toward your hair!) Start to squeeze gently and as the pulp moves down, pinch the now-empty pocket of skin at the top.

Starting the pinch

Pinch up the loosened top part of the peel as the pulp starts to move down toward the cut end

Hold it tight while continuing to squeeze downward with even pressure as though you were using a pastry bag.

Squeeze the eggplant like a pastry bag

Start the pinch at the top and squeeze downward on the pulp with your other hand

The eggplant pulp starts to move down

The eggplant pulp starts to move down and leaves an empty peel at the top

Try not to let the peel split–if it does, do your best to squeeze the pulp down into the colander anyway. You’re going to wash your hands afterward anyway so don’t panic.

Halfway there and starting to exit the cut end

Halfway there and starting to exit the cut end

Eventually, the pulp will flop out of the bottom opening and you’ll be left with an empty peel.

Almost squeezed out

Almost there

Fully squeezed out eggplant

Fully squeezed out eggplant, no mishaps, and I didn't have to wash my camera lens afterward...

That’s about it. A lot of agony for a few seconds, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not a bad trick. The baba ghanouj came out pretty well too! B’te’avon!

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