Saturday, 9 July 2016

How Can Olive without You?

Olea europaea

olives on my tree
I spent more than 40 years wanting to like olives and it is only since I have grown and begun to process my own that I have truly begun to appreciate their particular appeal. We planted four trees in 3 varieties over four years ago and this year was the first harvest of more than one olive. The exponential potential of future harvests has me almost afraid of how many olives we can look forward to.
Once processed olives can be rather high in sodium which can cause pause for anyone watching their blood pressure. On the up side they are high in vitamins A and E, have some vitamin K. They are high in healthy monounsaturated oleic fat, omega 6 fatty acid and some omega 3. They add some dietary copper, iron and calcium as well as small amount of magnesium, selenium and zinc. The real nutritional power house is in the vast array of amino acid and antioxidants.

Olive Traditions and Mythology


olive branch
Athena, Goddess of justice and wisdom and protector of arts and literature had the olive tree as one of her most recognised symbols. 

Poseidon, God of the seas and Zeus' brother, coveted earthly kingdoms and so claimed the possession of Attica, driving his trident into the Athenian Acropolis which became a well of salt water. Later, Athena came to town and took it in a very peaceful way calling Cecrops, first King of Athens, as a witness. Athena made an olive tree spring from just next to the well. Poseidon, in anger, challenged the goddess, but Zeus intervened and ordered the formation of a divine tribunal to decide which of the two Gods should be enshrined in the city. Thus, the tribunal formed by the Olympic deities, after listening to the testimony of Cecrops decided to side with Athena. It was determined that it was she who had the right to own the land because she had given the city the greatest gift: the first olive tree. Thenceforth, the city adopted the name of Athens and the olive tree planted by Athena was revered for centuries in the Acropolis symbolising the victory. In Greece the olive tree symbolises peace and prosperity, as well as resurrection and hope. This was demonstrated by the events after the burning of Athens by the Persian King Xerxes in the V century BC. Xerxes burned the entire Acropolis city, within which was the centenary of olive trees of Athena, which was also burned. However, when the Athenians entered the scorched city, the olive tree had already grown a branch, symbolising the rapid recuperation and renovation of the Athenians in the face of adversity.

An olive branch was often given as a mark of atonement in many stories including the tales of

Orestes and Thesus and crowns of olive branches became traditional for warriors, magistrates, priests, athletes and winners at games and competitions.

As a symbol for protection and fertility it was often conspicuous at the door and in the home and farm.


Preparing Olives for pickling

leaching out the bitterness

Slit each olive with a knife or pit them.Put in a large vessel, cover with water and weight them down so they have air excluded. Change water daily for 2 weeks.

Drain and rinse well then make up a brine solution of 10% salt in water and weight the olives down in that for 2 weeks.

Estimate the amount of pickling liquid required by filling preserving jar(s) with olives and then to the top with water. Drain reserving the water and measuring. Adjust the pickling liquid with some to spare.

pickled olives

Olives, a more traditional pickle

Pickling solution:

700ml 10% brine solution
(630ml water +70gm salt)
70ml white wine vinegar
(additional vinegar if you like a strong flavour pickle)

Add herbs and spices to taste. Be creative.
(here I used 3 birds eye chillies and fresh bay leaves)

Bring the brine and vinegar to a simmer. Fill the sterilised jars with olives and herbs and spices. Pour the pickling liquid to cover and seal. Turn upside down any pop tops and allow to cool before storing for 4 weeks.

Olives, a cheat version on a frugal budget

perfectly pickled
Pickling solution:
500ml reserved jalapeno pickling liquid
200ml flat lemonade

400ml white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tspn each peppercorns, 

dill seed & fennel seed
1 dried Kashmiri chilli

1 fresh bay leaf

Bring the reserved pickle, lemonade and vinegar to a simmer. Fill the sterilised jars with olives and herbs and spices. Pour the pickling liquid to cover and seal. Turn upside down any pop tops and allow to cool before storing for 4 weeks.

Olive Tapenade 

Tapenade with sage flowers
200g whole black olives, pitted
3 tbsp pickled nasturtium pods (or capers)

2 anchovies, roughly chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
2 tspn fresh thyme, chopped
Juice of ½ lemon

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Put in a food processor the capers, anchovies, garlic and thyme, and whizz to a rough puree. Squeeze in the lemon juice and, with the motor still running, add the oil in a steady drizzle.

Taste, and add pepper and more lemon juice if necessary.

Serve on small toasts or croutons, as a dip or stir through pasta

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