Olives a-go-go

Olive season has begun! Yay

We collected a bunch from the tree next to our house and now have olives for the winter.

Easy peasy! It really is but it does take a little time, about 2-3 weeks, so patience is a key ingredient in making confectionary olives.

1. Harvest the olives from a tree or buy fresh, raw from the market. You can use any kind of olives for this really. The quantity is up to you and doesn’t really change anything in terms of process.

2. Wash the olives, remove all twigs and leaves, strain and then crack individually. I used the bottom of a glass to press down on them until they cracked. You can also knick them with a knife to break the skin but allowing them to crack by crushing gives a better result, I think, in terms of flavour. Just be careful not to crush too much so that you break the pit and/or end up with a mush.

3. Put them in a clean container. I use a large plastic measuring jug so it’s easy to empty the water. Cover with water making sure all are under water. You can put a little saucer or muslin cloth on the surface to keep the olives submerged. Then let sit them in water 1 to 2 weeks till the bitterness goes. You’ll have to change the water daily! After a week, nibble one and if it’s bitter, carry on for another week. Mine went from a bright, verdant green to a darker, more earthy green over this period.

4. Rinse the olives and cover with brine (basically salt water) for a week in a cool dark spot. Again, they need to be completely submerged. For the salt water, I filled a separate pot with water, enough to cover the olives, and added spoonfuls of salt to water. There is no exact measurement, I just tested it with an egg (raw in shell!) – as soon as the egg floated it was ready. Weird but true.

5. You can eat them straight out of the brine and they are yummy but I prefer to have them ‘sotto olio’ (under oil) for a more delicate taste. Transfer small batches to another container, rinsing the salt water off first. I used a small mason jar which I could close and layered the olives in with good olive oil, whole peperoncino (chili), cracked garlic cloves and bay leaves. I only take out what I think we’ll eat over a week and leave the rest in the brine.

And that’s it really! Ready to eat with a chunk of fresh crusty country bread and slices of pecorino cheese. The best part is dipping the bread in the oil!

NOTE: Here in Sardinia, olives like this are a key element of the charcuterie board, usually served on cork slabs. Lot of cork trees here still! I’ll do another post sometime on how to prepare a charcuterie cork board! It’s a typical appetizer or antipasta before a meal, served with a little wine, and even sometimes just something on its own, to have as nibbles for an aperitivo – happy hour, sunset cocktails session – usually aperol spritz, campari, wine or beer. Italians typically like to eat when they drink. When life gives you olives, make a martini!

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