The olive is a small tree species in the family Oleaceae, found traditionally in the Mediterranean Basin. Now, they are grown everywhere in the world.
Spanish, Italians, Turkish, and Greeks, along with many other countries, have been pickling olives for thousands of years, turning this old fruit into a global gourmet joy.
Turning olives into pickles can be done in numerous different ways.
While this article is directed at beginners and deals with how to get olives ready before pickling, it will also present some eye-opening recipe concepts for you to work on, improve and adjust to suit your tastes.
Let’s start with the newly harvested olive.
Olives begin to grow and usually become available from the beginning to April to the end of June. An olive right off the tree is nearly always intense and bitter. To preserve an olive and remove the bitterness, it must first be cut and dried in briny water for several days, replacing it daily. While many processors use soda and chemicals to remove the bitterness, we will focus on natural, chemical-free methods of doing this.
Methods For Splitting Olives.
Using a knife cut 3-4 slits from the rear along 3-4 sides of the olive. Make sure the cuts touch the seed.
Use a fork and pierce the olive all around.
You can also use a glass bottle with a concave base such as a coke or sauce bottle. Bash each olive on a cutting board to crack it open. Your first few olives may be distorted until you get the hang of it, but it is easier and quicker of the two methods.
Once all olives have been cut, add them to a pot or barrel with enough salty water to coat them. The salt to water ratio should be 1 part salt to 10 parts water. As olives tend to float, cover them with a plate that has been weighed down to keep olives immersed.
Pour out the water every day or so, replacing it with a fresh mixture of water and salt. The only way to examine an olive is to taste it. After about a week, you can begin the taste analysis, and if you are satisfied, prepare yourself for the ultimate pickling stage.
Cover your cleaned glass containers with small barrels and airtight lids. Fill these with olives, leaving a gap of about two to three fingers.
Measure how much water will be required to neatly cover the olives and begin heating a large pot of water with dissolved salt. Bring this to the boil and stir with a wooden spoon to assure all salt has been softened. The salt/water ratio remains the same—one part salt to 10 parts water. Once the water has chilled, top up all your vessels, making sure olives are covered. Before sealing tightly, you can float some olive oil in the jar, just enough to stop air reaching the brine.
The tricky part is over, and olives are ready for consumption if you eat them in there simple state. For exceptional creativity, here are some ideas for dressing and improving the look of olives for presentation.
Before sealing jars, you can add things like a sprig of rosemary, a chili or two or a tarragon branch. Oregano is a traditional Mediterranean choice, while small onions, whole cloves of garlic, or even diced capsicums. Extracted from the jar and shown in a dish, you can soak with a little olive oil, grate some garlic over the top together with some freshly chopped mild pepper, then finish off with a squeeze of refreshing lemon or lime water.
Other harmonious combinations include dill or cracked pepper and fresh basil leaves. Use your imagination and add your preferred spices and herbs and dazzle your loved ones’ with your very own olive recipes.