Grandma’s Eggplant and Apple Jam


Few things are more American than a PB & J sandwich. However, jelly itself has been a staple all over the world since antiquity, when someone figured out that even quince (a fruit that looks like an ugly apple, and that’s too hard to be eaten raw) could taste delicious when slow-cooked with honey (incidentally, the word Marmalade derives from the Portuguese Marmelo (quince). Unlike our American children, spoiled by constant sugary snacks, it seems that people back then actually PREFERRED fresh fruit, because they didn’t attempt to make jelly with anything other than quince for centuries!


It was the Persians or the Arabs, who had been producing sugar from cane, who finally came up with the idea of syrup and started using it to manufacture various preserves, experimenting with pectic fermentation and creating the first citrus fruit marmalades. With the conquest of Spain, Portugal and Southern Italy, the Arabs introduced all their confections, changing the European palate forever, much to the joy of children and… dentists.


Preserving fruit or vegetables in syrup, just like drying or pickling, also prolonged their shelf life; this became critical in the Age of Discovery, starting in the 15th century, for the sailors, merchants and pirates (!) who had to spend months at sea with no access to fresh produce.


However, jam makes me think of far more familiar adventures, such as climbing up my grandmother’s fig, apple and peach trees as a child. I didn’t mind a scraped knee if I could feel that I was part of our little production line: I picked the fruit, nonna stirred the jam, my mom (the pharmaceutical chemist) jarred it, and my dad kept stealing spoonfuls from the pot.


  • 3 pounds small (Japanese) eggplants
  • 3 small golden delicious apples (or 2 large)
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 organic lemon
  • 6 cups sugar


peel the eggplants, cut them in 2-3 pieces each, and pierce them with a fork. Place them in a bowl of salted water for 1 hour. Rinse and cover with fresh, unsalted water. Let rest for another hour. Drain and lace in a large (it will froth up like crazy) copper or stainless steel pot, with the peeled and sliced apples, and the orange and lemon juice and zest. Add the sugar and 2-3 tbsps water,bring to a boil, and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. remove from the heat and pass through a food mill or sieve 9even a potato masher will do!). return to the pot and simmer for 30 more minutes, or until it has thickened. Pour into sterilized glass jars and close them tightly. Store in a cool, dark place.


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  1. mia nonna prima poi ora mia madre fanno la marmellata di mele cotogne tagliate a spicchi poi la marmellata di cedro nonna diceva che fà bene

  2. I never thought of using eggplant in jam before, this sounds amazing and I love your stories and memories, thanks for sharing.

    • Eggplant jam is also very popular in North Africa, from Algeria to Morocco, I’ve seen several versions- usually without the apples, and they add spices. In Italy, we also make jam with fennel, onion, tomato, pumpkin, and so on. Once you add sugar, who can tell the difference between vegetables and fruit anyway?

  3. what an unexpected combination. i’ve never had vegetable jams, but this looks great. love that last picture also!

  4. never thought of using eggplant in jam – this recipe is so inspiring.

  5. yes yes yes…I must try this as soon as possible!

  6. First off all, I love the history lesson. And yes, we feed our kids too much sugar, but still, sugar is yummy and I think the Persians/Arabs for that 🙂 I love the visual of you climbing up that tree and being part of the assembly line. This is a beautiful post!

  7. I so love hearing about the historical background of food, so thanks for that. Interesting take on jam! I do cook with quince.

  8. How original! Love the concept!

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