It's the tail end of the olive cropping season down here in South Oz. That means I can pop down to the local grocery store and get loads of fresh, right-off-the-tree, green olives at a very cheap price --don't even have to hit any of the farmer markets around (but I'll be doing that this weekend for other goodies).
I'll pause for a moment while you all wipe the drool off your collective keyboards.
Ok, pause over.
Did you know that olive trees grow very very very very well down in South Oz. So well, in fact, that if they escape a grove they are considered a pest plant. Why? Cus they out-compete the native trees and bushes, that's why. When I win that thar $20M dollar lottery I WILL have an olive grove --well looked after, of course.
Most of the jarred olives in a regular grocery store down here come from Spain. Why? Cus the Spainish Govt massively subsidises their industry so it's cheap and they have a nice trade agreement with Australia. The downside is that ALL olives processed in Spain use lye. So even though the Spainish ones are plentiful and cheap, I don't like the processing process (I just HAD to type that: processing process!!!!).
This time of year is great since this is olive harvesting season so I can get local, fresh, raw olives and cure them how I like. That means using the traditional brine method which takes longer than the lye method but you don't have to worry about dealing with poison.
The first time I cured olives they were ready in about 6 months (I used a very light brine). They were also the BEST OLIVES I'VE EVER TASTED!!!! The flesh was firm, not squishy, very meat-like. The flavour... OMG the FLAVOUR!
This year I've bought a few kilos of fresh olives so that I can have them throughout the year.
But I don't want to wait
Fortunately I've found a shorcut so the olives only take a month! And it only involves water and salt. Without either of which we'd all die quickly. So let's hear it for water and salt! Yah!
Here's what you do:
Take your fresh green olives (BTW black and green olives are the same beast, the black ones are just left on the tree longer) and rinse them well. Oh, when selecting them you want to sort through the bins and pick the brightest ones you can find --no, giving them an IQ test won't help, ahem.
They should look something like this:
Give them suckers a good rinse and then put em in some clean jars. You don't need to worry about sealing them tight like canning cus you are going to be opening them every day.
I like to use jars that either narrow towards the top or have a smaller opening than the rest of the jar. Why? Cus olives float and you want them to be a submerged as possible.
You can get a lot of olives out of only 600 grams!
Next, you fill each jar with plain water up to the top. Let it sit for 5 days and change the water each day.
THEN you brine them. And in a month they'll be ready! I'm using two different brines, one is a 5% brine and the other will be my brine from my latest batch of feta cheese ---mmmmmmmmm.
But dave, how do I make a 5% brine solution?
Easy. I used my kitchen scales and my awesome mathematical ability to come up with this: 4 cups water plus 2 and 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt. Stir till the salt is dissolved.
I'll be brining (or curing) the olives tomorrow as they been in the water soaking (fresh water each day!) for 5 days now. I'll let you know in a month how they've turned out.
Oct 8, 2009
Well, it's been 4 months now and it looks like this'll take the 6 months as before. So it seems that the trick I read about of the soaking and rinsing for 5 days doesn't work.
However, the stronger the brine is the quicker the olives will be ready. The 5% brine takes about 6 months, and I checked the ones from my feta brine (3 to 4%) and they'll take probably 8 months.
Sooooooooo, next season I'll do 3 batches; a 15% brine, a 10%, and a 5%. That way I should get good olives after 2 or 3 months and then enough from the other 2 brines to last through the spring and summer.