Olive pastes have been around for a long time and probably Tapanade is the one we know best. This is made of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovy fillets, and olive oil with the addition of many variations such as mustard, garlic, and being a Provençal dish any of the following herbs common in the South of France – basil, thyme, rosemary and parsley. Olive oil (good quality, extra virgin) is essential. Some add lemon juice, some brandy. Although it is most commonly made with black olives, green olives also make a good paste, very different in taste of course.
Below, Tapanade made with green olives and caper berries.
Clifford A Wright (Food Historian and author) offers a plausible explanation for why it is called Tapenade:
The caper plant was known as tapeneï in Provençal, and the flower buds, the part of the caper used for culinary purposes, was the tapeno, which were preserved in amphora filled with olive oil since vinegar was not used at that time. The capers became mushed together in the amphoras to form a kind of pâté of crushed tapeno, the ancestor of the modern tapenade. This is why it is today known by the word for caper rather than olives, which is actually, in volume, the greater constituent ingredient. In the second century A.D., vinegar came to be used more in preserving and so too garlic, the great universal medication in the medieval period when the Greek physician Galen’s medical theories were prevalent.
I have written about Tapenade once before and there is a recipe for tapenade on my blog:
Italians, Spaniards and Greeks also have versions of olive pastes – usually the pastes made in these countries only contain very few ingredients apart from olives and good olive oil, with maybe some herbs or garlic.
Now what about Olive jam?
I think Italians would find this hilarious and as an Italian food purist I was very skeptical. Yet it is no different from having a fruit chutney or a dab of a strong-tasting, thick paste. It is called Camilo Olive Jam.
It was the sweetness that made me wonder, but the paste still definitely tastes of olives. The ingredients are black olives, salt, apples, Camilo honey, lemons and chilli, sugar (22.8g per 100g).
I am finding the Olive Jam very pleasant ( with cheese, meat and fish) and when I have offered it to friends and they too are as surprisingly delighted as I am. Who would have thought!!!
See: Camilo Olives
And for one of my recipes for one way to use Olive Paste with fish, (Camilo Olives website, Recipes), see: Polpette di Pesce.