THE ART OF PICKLING OLIVES
The Love of Olives
This art form was introduced to me as a child, in Greece and in South Africa. If ever you had seen a boy climbing an olive tree in your neighborhood – in South Africa – ‘It might have been me” chuckle …
At first I found it rather embarrassing when my Dad hauled us out in the public with a ladder and a few buckets to go and pick olives in our neighborhood. It was in the days that South Africans were not aware of The Olive Tree and it’s delectable fruits that it had to offer. I often found myself explaining to my mates that Olives grew from trees. I recall having to justify that olives first need to be pickled in order to devour it’s essence.
Many years later, South Africans have finally realized the gifts that Olive Trees can offer to our well-being and for it’s nourishment.
I recommend that you, yourself, family and friends give it a go!
If you happen to spot an Olive tree in your neighborhood, kindly ask your neighbor if you could pick the olives, unless they intend doing so themselves. Too often, people are unaware on these precious fruits dangling in the air – waiting to be picked, before they drop to the ground and are lost for the season. For best results, the less pollution around, the better.
There are many ways and methods in pickling olives, some are extremely technical, whereas other’s simply follow their own cultural traditions and recipes passed onto them by family members – such as the Greeks, Turkish, Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese.
I so happened to be taking a stroll through the beautiful neighborhood of Darling, a picturesque village in the Swartland (West Coast) – only to come across three beautiful young olive trees – drenched in these precious gems. They were ready to burst and fall to the ground. A quick knock on the door, along with the offer to give a jar of pickled olives in return – with a huge smile and thank-you, and off I went to soak the freshly harvested olives in cold water.
The simplest method to cure olives, is by placing them in water after picking. Whether you are using a colander or simply a plastic bag with holes in it, place the olives in a bucket filled with water. Replace the water on a daily basis by straining it for approximately one week. This will ensure that no bacteria forms and assists with releasing the bitter taste within the olive.
The longer you keep the olives in the water (with the process of changing the water daily), the less bitter they will become. It’s up to you – how you like your olives.
The Second step is to have the olives lie in a salt-water brine for one week without changing the brine.
After completing these two cycles, you can now create your own brine – that tickles your fancy. Whether it’s the salty or the more vinegary taste, or a combination of both. Furthermore, don’t be scared to experiment a little, by adding lemon rind, bay leaves, garlic, pepper corns, oregano, chillies etc.
Ensure to sterilize a few jars and an extra one for the neighbor !!
Create your brine (water, salt, vinegar, herbs and spices), with enough salt so that an unboiled egg is able to float ontop. Pour into the jars with olives and cover with olive oil before sealing the jars. Wait for 4 weeks, and you will have your own home-made olives.
p.s. The Riebeek Valley Olive Festival is coming up – 7-8 May 2016
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