Italians love preserving summer fruits and storing them for the winter months: from fruit and vegetable jellies, jams and compotes to tomato canning; from pickling to drying and salting, the food history of the peninsula is studded with recipes to store and maintain food and to make it available all year around.
My grandma, age 92, is no exception. As far as I remember, she has always made preserves in the summertime, with the vegetables from her own garden. It is simply something she does without asking herself any questions: the abundance of food spurs her to make conserve (preserves, in Italian). She has always been more about the vegetable than the fruit ones, so home-made jams weren’t really part of our traditions as much as tomato sauce and other vegetable preserves. My absolute favorite is her salsa di melanzane (aubergine sauce) – a mix of aubergine, green bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes, stewed together in some oil at very low heat for a while until all the vegetables fall apart and a creamy, chunky sauce is formed.
The recipe calls for 2 kg of diced aubergines, 5/6 green bell peppers, diced as well, 1 big yellow onion, chopped, 6 very ripe San Marzano tomatoes and 2 garlic cloves. Place aubergine, then peppers, then tomato, onion and garlic in a big pan. Season with some salt, then add 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Set the pan over low-medium heat and cook until very tender, stirring often to avoid vegetables from sticking to the bottom. When they are soft and creamy, remove the pan from the heat. Let cool down whatever you want to eat immediately or in the next days.
For longer preserving, transfer the still hot sauce into sterilized mason jars, close with lids and place them a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat. Let the jars cool completely in the pan, then remove them from the water. You can store them for several months in a dry, cool and dark place.