Food, Misfits

Olives á la Pepe!

On a sunny day in October our neighbors, a lovely Spanish couple named Pepe (short for Jose) and Pepa (short for Josefina) signaled at our fence that we shall open our gate as they wanted to visit. When they came over they started excitingly to talk about olives. Supposedly now would be the best time for picking the green ones.

We do have a few olive trees at Casa James, but this year they are not carrying too many olives, so Pepe suggested to pick some trees on an abandoned field that no one had looked after in at least 12 years. Conveniently, it is located right next to us 🙂

A few days later when we had time, we did as suggested and took two small bowls for our hands to pick the olives into and a big rubber bucket for the overall harvest. As we had an entire field of trees to pick from we only took the biggest ones we could find on each tree and only ones without any brown spots on them as we were told they can be a sign of an unwanted olive fly guest inside the olive. As this was to be our first try of making own olives, we ended up actually not picking that many (we thought!) and the rubber bucket was only filled about 15cm high.

On the way back we discussed what to do next, as we knew fresh olives aren’t yummy and have to be cured in some way before eating, but the neighbors had not mentioned yet how. Luckily on the short way back to the house, we met Pepe and were able to ask for the next step 😉

As instructed by Pepe we had to open the olives and let them soak in water for a few days to release their bitterness. Opening them can be done by either crushing them or cutting them in with a knife. Supposedly, the curing process takes a bit longer with the knife version as the olive is not open as much and the bitterness can’t leak out as easily.

We liked how the crushed olives look more rustic and homemade, so we wanted to try that method. It also seemed less fiddly than handling every olive with a knife.

Pepe suggested to take a wooden item, a piece of pallet or something, but we thought a wooden stirring spoon would do a cleaner job. We have two marble stone pieces that we usually use as coasters for pots or sometimes for crushing nuts, which turned out useful for placing underneath the olives.

With the olives wedged between the marble and the wooden spoon, we found it worked best to just apply careful pressure on the spoon until one feels the olive crack. We noticed that some crunchier olives broke open quite a bit, while others only had a fine crack line.

Olives crashed better
Olives after crushing them open. Some opened up more, some only a little

The first few olives we just threw in an empty bowl until we noticed that they oxidised and started becoming brown, so we filled lots of water into the bowl and threw the olives directly after crushing into it so that they were completely submerged.

Be careful with what you wear as the juice can spray quite a bit. We also had to wipe the surrounding area of the kitchen as there were spots everywhere. It might be better to do outside on a garden table next time 😉 Our fingernails discoloured as well, so if you want to avoid that, it might be good to wear gloves.

We were surprised how long it took us to crush all of the olives open and suddenly the amount we picked seemed much bigger than before!! After all of them were done, we rinsed them quickly in a cullender and filled the bowls with fresh cold water.

Pepe had said that we do not have to keep the bowls with the olives covered, but that it would be better if we could. Luckily, we have two big Tupperware bowls that come with lids, so we used those and they worked nicely.

His instructions were to change the water every three days and after about 8 to 9 days to try an olive and see if it tastes ok. After the first day we had a look at the olives and were surprised how mucky the water looked. So we decided to replace it with fresh water right-away instead of waiting another two days.

Olives in water
The right bowl is how mucky the water looked after 1 day. The left bowl is with fresh, new water.


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