Eggplants are an edible fruit that belongs to the nightshade family. They have beautiful purple skin with white flesh. They are sometimes called brinjals or aubergines. Eggplant can be consumed raw, although it is commonly cooked in dishes like the French ratatouille or the Greek moussaka.
Unfortunately, preparing eggplant ahead of time can prove challenging, as eggplant turns brown when the flesh is exposed to air. This is a process known as oxidation. You have likely witnessed this process when a sliced apple is exposed to oxygen and turns brown.
While it is generally safe to consume oxidized fruits and vegetables, oxidization can cause them to lose some of their colour, flavor, and texture. Additionally, oxidized fruit and vegetables are unappealing to many, as they resembled spoiled produce.
Can You Cut Eggplant Ahead of Time
Fortunately, eggplant can be chopped ahead of time if it is stored correctly in order to prevent oxidization. There are three main methods that can be used to prevent chopped eggplants from turning brown before you get around to cooking them.
- Using Milk
An easy way to prevent chopped eggplant from turning brown is to add it to a bowl of water with a tablespoon or two of milk. This will not only prevent oxidization but also temper the bitterness of the eggplant.
Since eggplants are spongy fruits, they soak up milk easily. This gives them a delicious creamy flavour. Eggplant soaked in milk would be ideal for a creamy eggplant pasta dish.
To enjoy this creamy flavor, you should soak your chopped eggplants in milk and water for around half an hour. If you are preparing a vegan dish or looking to minimize your dairy intake, you could even opt for soy milk or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.
- Using Lemon Juice
If you do not have milk readily available or you are crafting a dish that is not creamy, you could try using lemon juice to prevent your chopped eggplant from browning. The pH of a vegetable can cause it to change color.
For example, an eggplant with a neutral pH will be purplish in colour, while one with an alkaline pH will turn bluish in colour. Since lemon juice is acidic, it can effectively adjust the pH of an eggplant and thus prevent it from turning brown.
Drizzle approximately two tablespoons of lemon juice on a medium-sized eggplant that has been chopped to stop it from changing colour.
The lemon juice should be drizzled as soon as the eggplant’s flesh is exposed to air, so you might find it easier to squeeze the lemon beforehand and set it aside before chopping the eggplant.
The eggplant in lemon juice should be stored in an airtight glass container in the fridge and will last for around two to three days.
If you choose to use this method, you could even enhance the lemon flavour of the eggplant by choosing to add lemon zest to the recipe. Grilled eggplant with lemon and garlic is always a favorite!
- Using Salt
Salt can also be used to stop the oxidisation process. Once your eggplant has been chopped or sliced, you should pat it dry with a paper towel and then sprinkle salt over it. Cover the salted eggplant with a baking sheet to minimize contact with oxygen.
Alternatively, you can soak the eggplant in salted water. If you intend to follow this method, you should add around one tablespoon of salt to a large bowl of water and allow it to soak in the brine for around thirty minutes to an hour.
Is Your Eggplant Still Turning Brown?
If you have used one of the three methods above and your chopped eggplant is still turning brown, you may find the following tips useful:
- Choose a young eggplant that is firm, smooth, and shiny. If there are soft brown spots on the eggplant or it appears wilted and leathery, it is probably not fresh and will spoil and turn brown quickly. The stem of the eggplant should also be green, unwilted, and free from mould.
- Ensure that the knife and pot or pan that will be used to chop and cook the eggplant are not made from aluminum, tin, copper, or cast iron. These are all reactive metals that alter the pH of acidic fruits and vegetables like the eggplant. Knives and pots made from stainless steel are ideal for preparing eggplant, as they will not alter the pH level and cause color changes. If you are using a cast iron pot or pan, it should be ceramic coated in order to prevent an alteration of the pH.
- Storing eggplants near fruits that produce ethylene can cause them to spoil quickly. These fruits include tomatoes, melons, and bananas. Remember to keep your eggplants far away from these fruits.
- Remember that even when chopped eggplant is stored correctly, it will only last around three days unless you choose to freeze it. If frozen, eggplant can last for around eight months.
Yes, you can cut eggplant ahead of time but you will need to give it a little bit of extra care to stop it turning brown. We hope our tips have been helpful to you.