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Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Olive Ripe for Marinating from the Boisset/de la Fuente Grove
Photo by: Carolina de la Fuente 

L. Oliva, Ar. al-zaytūna, Fr. olivier, Eng. olive. Olive trees grow all over Spain. They are so ancient that Greeks, Romans and Jews had encounters with them. It was the Greeks who took them to Mediterranean countries including Spain. During December and January, Spanish peasants wearing scarves on their heads go to the groves with long poles to shake olives off the branches, which fall on white sheets spread on the ground under the trees. During the 15th C. they were harvested in the same way but in October and November from the Mancha through Andalusia. Subsequently, the olives are divided. The majority of green olives are pressed to make olive oil, see aceite de oliva. The others are washed, moistened with a little oil, sprinkled with salt, thyme and placed in a vessel. Water is added and the lid is secured. When the Arabs came to Spain, they increased olive production and cured them with thyme, garlic, aromatic herbs and salt brine (see almorí de pescado). Arab pickles were used such as aromatic oregano (šardūn) and other pickles not defined in Romance dictionaries or in studies of medieval manuscripts. The olives are left in these sauces until the taste is right and then consumed at will. Secret ingredients for pickles of this type have been prepared over the centuries as every household traditionally passes their recipe down from one generation to the next. Fadalat calls for ollivesas garnish in its dishes. [Alguillera. 2002:16; Bolens. Cuisine. 1990:186]



For curing:
esparto grass mold and stone, cheesecloth and containers with lids or curing pots with an inner perforated disc to keep olives submerged
Brine Cured Olives
Photo by: nonrecipes
For each jar of cured olives:
1 part wine vinegar
4 parts brine
½ tsp basil
½ tsp oregano
2 garlic cloves
10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 slices of lemon
olive oil


When olives begin to soften and turn green and some black collect them by spreading a sheet or netting on the ground under the tree and shaking the branches with a long pole with prongs.

At home pick over the olives separating by size and color. Light spots on them are all right but care should be taken to discard any that look like they have been attacked by an insect as the critter could be inside. Remove stems and leaves. Rinse olives in clean water.

Fadalat instructs that they should be bruised with a stone being careful not to break the skin. Other recipes advise to prick them with a fork or to make a slit in each one on one side  with a fruit knife. This allows the salt water to penetrate the olives. Raw olives are filled with oleuropain, which is very bitter.  Salt draws it out of the fruit.

Make a brine with enough water to cover each batch of olives by adding one part salt to every 10 parts of water. Heat this and stir until the salt is thoroughly dissolved. Let cool. Place the olives in the curing pot(s) or other receptacle(s). Completely cover with the brine. It is essential that the olives receive no air while being cured or they will go bad. For this reason curing pots are used or an esparto grass mold with a stone to weigh the olives down. Another method it to put the olives in a cheesecloth bag or other device to weigh the olives down. Canning jars are good if totally filled with the brine.

If the olives are black change the brine every 4 days, every 6 days if green. It takes 3-5 weeks to cure. To tell if they are ready taste them when changing the brine. Larger olives take longer.

When cured put the olives in canning jars with 1 part vinegar to 4 parts brine, garlic, peppercorns, oregano, basil, chopped onion, bay leaves and lemons or other combinations.  Seal by pouring a ¼” layer of olive oil on top. Tightly close the lid. Olives can be kept in a cool dark place up to a year.

When ready to serve refrigerate for 24 hours. If too salty, pour out the liquid and place them covered in pure water for 24 hours. This will leach some of the salt out of the olives.

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