Monday, November 17, 2008

Olive Stuff

Which isn't to say Stuffed Olives. But you can.

This is our token Tuscan olive tree:

It's had a curious history with us. Two autumns ago, our first year here, it fruited. If not bountifully. L'Artista managed to pickle a single small jar of olives.

Last autumn, zero. Zilch. Zip. I investigated. There is, apparently, a syndrome that causes olive trees only to fruit every two years. I still don't understand it. Why should today be different?

Be that as it may, this year, after some deft pruning and other appropriate care, it coughed up a surprising number of the little beggars:

And here, for your edification, is L'Artista's quick and handy guide to pickling olives.

First, use a sharp knife to slice into each olive, creating just enough of a slit to allow the brine solution to penetrate:

Next, tip the prepared olives into a container large enough to hold all the olives and the brine solution:

That's them in the container with coarse salt, the beginnings of the brine solution. The brine solution is 1/2 cup of coarse salt to 10 cups of water allowing sufficient water to cover completely the olives.

Cover the container.

Next day, drain the brine solution, replace it with fresh solution and cover the container. To save having to measure out the water each time, mark the water level on the container and fill it to that level. Repeat the draining, replacing and covering process every day until the olives have lost their bitterness.

As a rule of thumb, black olives take around 10 days, green olives around 12. Towards those deadlines, try the taste test on an olive. If there's still too much bitterness, give it another day, draining and replacing the brine solution. Or another few days. Until they're right for you.

When you're satisfied, sterilise your storage jars by submerging them in boiling water for 5 minutes.

Drain the olives and transfer them to the sterilised jars.

To preserve the olives, prepare a brine of 1 cup of coarse salt to 10 cups of water. Bring the solution to the boil, then cool. Add the cooled solution to the jars to cover completely the olives:

Then, to protect the olives from any air, add 1cm of olive oil:

Until you're looking at this:

Screw the lids tightly onto the jars and store them until you feel the urge for some home-pickled olives.

When the time comes, drain the oil and brine solution from a jar, fill the jar with cool water and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours before eating.

Maybe even drizzled with good quality EVOO and some fresh herbs.



Anonymous said...

Had I but an olive tree...

Chef Chuck said...

Wow, those olives look good!!
I just found your blog and like it very much. To see gardening in Italy is wonderful to me! I am a gardener / cook.
I am from Arizona and only grow vegetables from Italy, the land I love.
We are in winter and I have lots of of garlic varieties in my green house, I brought back from Italy.
I will continue to follow your gardening with excitement!
Thanks Chuck

The Gardener said...

Hi Chuck. Thanks for stopping by. Things should happening again in the garden in about three months!

moreidlethoughts - plant one!