Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brining the olives

I'm not a bottler or preserver. I don't make jam or chutney except in tiny batches to keep in the fridge. But every year I brine a batch of olives from our olive grove over the hill. They are kalamata from one of our two kalamata trees, one of which is thriving on our daughter's placenta.

Kalamata olives are Greek olives and I am part-Greek, so naturally I am drawn to them. Last year, my husband, daughter and I hand-picked them, this year my husband did them on his own. The rest of our olives are Italian, Spanish or Israeli and are picked by a machine and crushed for oil.

I can brine the olives without consulting a recipe now. I soak them in fresh water for a few weeks (around 4) changing the water every day (such a chore!), make enough brine to cover them using the measurements of 100g of salt to one litre of boiling water (enough to float an egg), dissolve the salt and cool the brine, wash and sterlise the jars in the oven and let them cool, put a little brine in the jar - pile in the olives - top with brine and a layer of olive oil with a gap at the top, put on the lids (not too tight) and there you have it!

A peasant (sic) and pleasing task. I keep looking at the jars and feeling a woosh of pride. The photo is of Ian and me with one of our first crops. The trees were so small then. They are nearly 15 years old now and tower over us. The grove is my husband's pride and joy and he does all the work there now, but every year I brine the olives - and eat them - and eat the oil of course.


Anonymous said...

How wonderful! I am always seeing trees laden with olives in Auckland gardens, and wondering if I should knock on the door and offer to harvest them. I should like to feel so proud (but I might just stick to preserved lemons - I have my own tree)

Claire Beynon said...

Yum, Mary. Clearly one of life's special rituals, this - for you, Ian and your family. Your instructions for brining read like a poem, esp. these lines -

'. . . They are kalamata from one of our two
kalamata trees, one of which is thriving
on our daughter's placenta. . . '

and the one about the salt and 'boiling water (enough to float an egg)'.

Again, yum!
L, C xo

wv. likissi - sounds Greek, yes?

Kathleen Jones said...

This sounds wonderful Mary. Is there a poem in there somewhere? I'll keep your recipe for some of my Tuscan olives - smaller and more bitter than yours - in November.

lillyanne said...

I love this! I have friends who own olive trees in Italy so I must check to see if they know all this ... I think they send all their olives to be pressed, but maybe not.

I too think there must be a poem in there somewhere.