This year’s olives…… hardly worth it. Larger than last year’s crop, but probably just as few.
I think that my tree is refusing to produce many olives because it is objecting to being in a pot. It gets root bound and every year we pull it out of the pot and trim the roots – this probably traumatizes it.
It has given me many years of pleasure and I have certainly experimented with processes for curing the olives and dressing them.
Once pickled, my olives do not keep their colour – I pick them when they are a green- violet colour but the pickling process turns them into a uniform light brown colour.
I was horrified when I read this article in The Age (Melbourne news paper):
Olives painted with copper sulphate top largest-ever Interpol-Europol list of fake food
A statement by Interpol on Wednesday said a record 10,000 tonnes and 1 million litres of hazardous fake food and drink had been recovered across 57 countries, with Australia also making the list.
Italian olives painted with copper sulphate solution, Sudanese sugar tainted with fertiliser, and hundreds of thousands of litres of bogus alcoholic drinks top Interpol’s annual tally of toxic and counterfeit food seized by police agencies across the world. The haul of bogus diet supplements, adulterated honey and ……….etc.
I have often been asked about the colour of Sicilian Olives (those bright green ones as in photo above) and I really do not know how they are pickled and how the bright green colour eventuates.
My tree has given me a great deal of pleasure and I have certainly experimented with processes for curing its olives and dressing them.
There are many posts written about pickling olives and recipes using olives on my blog…. key in OLIVES in the search button. I have just tried this and there are 72 posts about olives! Here is one of them:
I always know when it is picking olive season by the number of people looking at the posts on my blog about pickling olives.
Yesterday there were 162 people looking at How To Pickle Olives, the day before there were 188; I can only assume that these readers are living in the southern parts of Australia and some maybe from New Zealand where olives are in season.
I have written about olives in a number of posts but this one seems to remain the most popular. Rather than write about olives again I will have links to other posts about olives and include a few photos of how I am processing olives at the moment.
In the photo below the olives in the jar are from my tree on the balcony – slim pickings this year. These small olives have been placed in vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt.
The photos explain how it is done. In this process the stone must be removed. Some suggest using a rolling pin. My father used to use a stone or a wooden mallet. I have placed the olives on my pastry mat and then folded it over. You will need to apply quite a bit of pressure.
I usually use a meat tenderizer . On this occasion I used a rolling pin and then finished them off with a meat tenderizer – take no prisoners!
Olives can be very beautiful.
I place the cracked olives in a large jar and cover them with plastic netting to keep the olives submerged.
I will keep on changing the water for about 7 days. The water is quite cloudy and I wonder how much goodness will be left in the water.
After 7 days the olives are ready. There are not many there.
You can see that I am soaking the black olives in water. I will change the water daily for about 10 days and then place them in brine.
Sometimes a small bowl of olives are all that one needs for an antipasto or as a nibble with one’s first drink.
These are processed black olives (have been pickled in brine), tossed into a hot frypan and presented warm. I used kalamata olives, but you could use any black olives including the wrinkled sun/salt-dried olives for this recipe.
500 grams of black olives.
½ cup of vinegar
1 onion, finely chopped or 2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh herbs: oregano or mint or fennel fronds or parsley
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
PROCESSES Saute the onion in the oil, add black olives and cook them over high heat for five minutes. This will intensify the flavours and fragrance of the olives. Add the vinegar and evaporate. Place the hot olives into a serving plate add herbs and serve always warm. On this occasion I used fresh mint – the plant on my balcony is just beginning to sprout new leaves as we move closer to spring.
Olive trees have become very common in many Australian gardens. In South Australia where I used to live, olive trees grow wild and prolifically, and I miss not being able to collect and marvel at the range of shapes, sizes and tastes of olives I had for free. I used to enjoy looking at my collection of different jars of olives, collected from different trees and in different locations. I remember once finding a tiny, round olive in Botanic Park and after some research found that it was a descendant of one particular French variety introduced in very early times of Adelaide’s history.
A friend contacted me recently and suggested that I publish something on my blog about how to pickle olives. She is ready to pick hers and had looked through her collection of recipe books and was able to find many suggestions for how to marinade olives, but not how to pickle them.
There are many ways to preserve olives in all their stages of maturity – green, black and those that are turning colour from green to violet. Because I only have one small tree growing in a pot on my balcony, it is those in-between colour olives that I collect to preserve.
Water and salt seem to be a common ways to leach out the bitterness.
I place them into a crock pot after the leaching process and cover them in brine. As you can see I place a weight on top to keep them submerged and then cover them with a sturdy lid and leave them there until they are pickled.
Green olives can be soaked whole in salt water or be cut with a sharp knife across on one side or cracked with a brick (called oliveschiacciate).
Very ripe black olives can be dried outdoors in the shade and then packed in jars in salt. My father placed black olives on rock salt in shallow trays with a layer of open weave made of plastic (available from the hardware and used to prevent leaves from getting into gutters) suspended close to the bottom of the trays. The juice of the olives dribbles down to the bottom of the tray (to collect the juice, he used to place newspaper there, discard and replace it regularly) and eventually the olives dry out and they can be packed in oil, fennel seeds and oregano.
Some people use ash, others place green olives in water with caustic soda – the soda preserves the firmness, but it is not environmentally friendly and not a process I favour. This method is a common procedure used in commercial pickling and can change the colour of the olive from green to black.
I have one small tree on my balcony and the easiest thing I can do is collect my small crop when my olives are turning colour from green to pink and preserve them in brine till I am ready to use them.
Submerge the olives into fresh water in a large bowl or bucket. Change the water every day for a fortnight. I place a clean plate or mesh on top to keep the olives under the surface.
The olives are now ready to be placed in jars into a strong solution of brine.
Estimate how much brine you require (salt is cheap and maybe you will waste some brine or you can measure the last lot of water you pour off the olives).
Dissolve salt in boiling water, I use about one cup of coarse rock salt to 8 cups of water. (My father used to boil the water and keep on adding salt till an egg floated on top). Allow the water to cool.
Place olives in clean jars (with good lids). I scatter some fennel seeds in between the layers and then pour the brine over them until the olives are completely submerged. Once again that gutter wire comes in handy and I cut some to size to place on top of the olives to keep them submerged. Alternatively coiled branches of dry wild fennel stalks are also effective for this purpose.
Topping up the bottles with up to one centimeter of olive oil to seal and stop air getting to the olives is not thought to be essential, I do it. Screw on the lids and store for at least 6 months in a cool place.
When you are ready eat your olives take out as many as you want, drain them and taste them. If they are too salty, soak them in fresh water, till they are ready to dress.
Unlike the Greeks, I do not use vinegar to pickle or to dress olives. Unless I am pretending to be Moroccan rather than Italian, my olives are mostly dressed very simply with extra virgin olive oil, dry oregano, bay leaves, fennel seeds and chili flakes.
******This post was published in Mar 23, 2009 and it us still one of my most popular posts.
Having said that ‘Unlike the Greeks, I do not use vinegar to pickle or to dress olives’, check out what I have said in a post written in Jan 11, 2015