Monday, 10 June 2013

Preserving olives

Life seems to have come full circle for me. I grew up in part of an old olive grove in suburban Adelaide and in those days olives were hardly for eating by Aussies. It was the immigrants who had arrived from Greece and Italy after the war who lusted after them and seemed to know what to do with them. Every year they would come a-knocking on our door and my father would agree to allow them to harvest - albeit with certain rules. It was not about the olives - they could have as many as they wanted! It was not about sharing their finished products with us - it never occurred to us to ask! No it was about them agreeing not to damage the precious rose gardens nearby! Of course every year we would watch as they spread their tarpaulins under the trees and beat the olives onto the ground. And dare I say stomped on the rose gardens in their excitement to gather the prodigious crops. And yet every year my father would agree to another group (whoever knocked first!) taking the olives in the hope that maybe, just maybe, this year the roses would be respected. They never were!
My pleached olive hedge
And so over the years the gnarled old olives continued to bring joy to all - but us. Until one day many years later I moved to my current home in inner urban Melbourne with its tiny garden and what did I plant? Olive trees. And every other year (well I had a few this year but...) these two 10 year old trees bare an abundance of fruit. By this time I had 'got the taste' for olives and thought I would preserve them. After all we were coming into the new and fashionable 'hunter gatherer' period. Well I have tried the Biblical 'change the salt water ever day for 40 days and 40 nights' - ridiculous, I've hung them in coarse sea salt in hessian bags in my garage watching them drip their juice on the floor and been unable to eat them. In fact I've tried a million recipes - even one where the amount of salt should float an egg (?!) but I've finally been given the easiest recipe ever. 
Only one measly jar of olives this year
As this was a (very) lean year for my olives a friend delivered a bucket load the other night. She has so many and didn't know what to do with them (a regular plea from so many I know) - so here we go!
A nearly full bucket load of olives delivered to my door
(let me know if you have a better one!)
The brine solution: 125 gms cooking salt dissolved in 4 cups water
1. place olives in a glass jar and cover with mixture of 3 cups brine solution and one cup malt vinegar
2. carefully pour a light film of cooking oil over surface of brine and vinegar
3. screw lids on jars and store in cool dark place for 3 months
They can be use straight from the brine or if they are too salty soak them in water for 24 hours 
Then get creative by adding herbs/spices and oil
1. place olives in a glass bowl and cover with water
2. place clean cloth and plate on top of olives to ensure they remain completely submerged
3. change the water every day for 5 days (not 40 days and 40 nights!)
3. drain olives and pack into glass jars and cover with mixture of 3 cups brine solution and 1 cup white vinegar
4. carefully pour a light film of cooking oil over the surface
5. screw on lids and store in a cool dark place for 2-3 months before using
Then get creative by adding herbs/spices and oil
One bucket load of olives off to the cupboard for 3 months!
So if you've been scared to 'have a go' at preserving olives then be brave and try. You might surprise yourself! And it's fun to offer your own to friends.

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