...it's getting close to that time of year again. I don't participate any more, I simply don't have the space, it's either the bath for a bath or a shower, or the bath for curing olives!
It's a great shame, because I used to really enjoy my own home cured olives, and now when I look at the price of "specialised" preparations, I'm frightened!
Over 18euros for a kilo of things I used to prepare for a few centimes, and which tasted better anyhow!
The first thing you have to know and accept, is that it is a long process, from picking your olives from the tree and putting them into glass conserving jars to eat over the whole winter.
Somewhere around 2-3 MONTHS, depending on the quality of the product.
Now this would mean for me 2-3 MONTHS with no bath or shower (situation normal....!?) and since starting in September, the weather is still nice and warm, transpiration is still rampant, it may be too much to ask of the people around me. Oh yes - they loved the olives, but....... The first thing to understand is that no particular knowledge is required, just a few supplementary things, and hard work and time.
There are basically only 3 ways of preparing olives, once prepared, there are as many ways of "garnishing" them as there are people making them!
Everyone has his own painstakingly tried and tested recipe - with little pickled onions, just sliced onions, pickled gherkins and so on.......and on....and on....
First, as they say - get your olives.
Now this only really pays if you have access to your own olives, because you choose the moment to pick them, from a ripeness point of view, and from a quality point of view, and of course from a quantity point of view. The procedure isn't worth doing if it's just for a couple of pounds of olives!
Less than 10 kilos (around 20lbs) of olives isn't really worth doing!
So....pick your olives....avoid the leaves obviously, and avoid the damaged or bruised ones. A few leaves and smaller branches can be picked later for decorative purposes.
Green (unripe) and black (ripe) fruits should be treated seperately, since the state of ripeness changes the style and length of curing them.
I'm going to concentrate on the methods most popularly used, salt cured (brine) and "Lye" cured (that's caustic soda or potash). I propose to deal with both ways in separate articles, apart from the basics....
The procedure in both cases starts the same, washing the olives in cold water, a few times, changing the water 3 to 4 times.
For brine curing (simpler and quicker method but doesn't give as good a taste) the washed and cleaned olives must be submerged in a salt and water solution and left for up to 4 weeks, changing the solution now and then - up to 3-4 times depending on the size and quality of the fruit. To cover them completely, a little trick can be used - a cover (plate or something) slightly smaller than the container should be placed over the olives and the weight of the plate will force the olives under. If, like myself, you're doing it in a specially kept old bath tub, then you'll have to come down and stir them whenever you think of it, but at least once every 2 days. The more often then the more uniform the salting will be.
Some people recommend "slitting" the olive on one side with a sharp knife, to allow the brine to penetrate more fully. This may be the case if the quality of the olive is exceptionally unripe, I personally never had to bother.
I also found that the colour of the fruit changed and was less pleasant to the eye, quite apart from the fact that some of the olives accepted the brine solution more than others, and ended up "over cooked" and somewhat mushy.
Here is a link giving you many types of curing and the instructions regarding salt/water ratio for the brine.
You'll find that you will have to adapt according to your own wishes and the product you're using......
(with thanks to "About.com"):
Once you've done the salting or brining, you can go on to either conserve them in jars, in a weaker brine, or you can "go Greek" and conserve them in olive oil (much nicer and tastier) together with your own concoctions, like onions, garlics, branched herbs etc......
These jars can make quite beautiful little presents, both original in taste and appearance, depending on your artistic ability, but before giving them, make sure the olives are edible , taste nice and aren't poisonously salty.....!
That's the end of this part, the second part will deal with the other, better and real method of curing olives....with drain cleaners..........yep - honestly....!
But once done, you can really go to town, but leave the expensive stalls to one side......
You'll have the same, just better.....at home!
Better not just because you did it yourself, but better because of the price!
iwmpop(mrlemarquis) - Vauvert,France - Septembre 2011
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