The Olive Tree

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The Olive Tree

Blessed Easter, everyone!

**********

So, I’m a little late; because technically, Easter proper (or Easter week) ended three Sundays ago — we’re in the 4th week of Easter, in case anyone was counting. But then again, technically, we still have a few more Sundays of Easter-tide before Pentecost, no?
Since you last heard from me on Holy Thursday, I was forced to buy a brand new iPad 2 — I dropped mine and broke its gawd-awfully impractical glass screen in four different places, only to be told by the local evangelists that they don’t replace broken iPad screens, just in case anyone was wondering — only to have the latest iOS 5.1 update brick it. To add insult to the injury, iTunes INSISTED on re-downloading the entire update before it allowed me to restore Lambda2.1 — what I call my iPad 2, again if anyone was wondering — PLUS, my carrier’s arrested development kept throttling my speed in the region of 90 kBps — not very funny considering it’s a 750+ MB file — a speed of which should have be made illegal after the death of dial-up! <– Only in Malaysia, people! After a week of dancing with such abysmal broadband speeds, I had to resort to travelling down to Kiaseeland to download the confounded file via my Singaporean hotel’s in-house internet service; and no, it wasn’t on the house. Even so, I still needed to re-restore Lambda’s original settings — a grand total of five times, usually in the middle of in these wee hours — because the new update & him were yet to become good friends.
It’s all good now, though: I threatened to can him for the New iPad and all was restored in iOS-Land. I still traded up with the New iPad though, and The Baba gets a brand new iPad 2. It was a win-win situation. *glee* Back to the belated Easter greeting…

**********

For reasons unknown, I have been thinking of olives since Easter — or Holy Week, to be more exact.
Spilt over a sub, or sprinkled generously across a pizza, they are the closest that one can get to pickled culinary perfection.

How convenient then, that I happen to have an olive tree in my garden! 🙂

The olive tree

Not exactly black, but definitely not green either!
Don't ask me what kind of olives these are.
Finding them in Malaysia was a miracle to begin with.

How inconvenient though, that olives picked fresh from an olive tree are packed with oleuropein; a chemical compound that gives fresh olives, leaves, and (to an extent) extra virgin olive oil, an unforgettably bitter taste.
And although preparations of this compound are supposed to strengthen one’s immune system / stop ageing / reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, I’m not about to spoil my images of pickly heaven just about yet.

I was, however, able to Google an exhaustive manual on home curing methods for olives.
So I thought to myself: What the heck, why put such serendipity to waste? According to the very scholarly-sounding paper, there are five methods in which a home olive enthusiast can prepare her (or his, if you must insist) olives:

  • water-curing a.k.a. bathing-and-drowning-your-olives-to-death;
  • brine-curing:
    — further subdivided into Greek & Sicilian styles;
  • dry salt a.k.a. dehydrating-your-olives-to-death;
  • lye-curing; and finally
  • lye-curing + fermentation.
Bowl of olives

I must admit though, I should have waited a couple more weeks till I had nice black olives;
so just between you and me, let's call this a test drive. 😉

For the purposes of this food experiment, I will brine-cure my olives Greek-style.

Ingredients

  • Mature olives
    – I gather from various sources online that they should be dark red / purple when you pick them.
    – Also, that you should be careful not to bruise them during the picking process.
  • Salt
    – The manual specifically specified pickling salt, but I went ahead with whatever I had at home, which is Himalayan rock salt — hence the pinkish hue.
  • Water
  • Airtight containers

Instructions

  • Prepare the brine.
    – Again, according to the manual, that’s adding 3 L of clean water to 1 cup of salt.
    – Since I was preparing a measly 6 olives in a jam jar, I added 3 parts of water to 1 part of salt.
  • Wash your olives and discard any bruised or defective fruits.
  • Place said olives into the airtight container and top it up with the brine you prepare earlier.
    It is apparently very import to have the olives sink or at least bathe in the salty solution.
  • Keep the container loosely covered and store the olives in a cool (manual recommended 15-27 °C) place — but I just went ahead a stuck it on top of my kitchen counter, furthest away from the window or the stove — for 7 days.
  • At the end of the 7 days, you’ll need to prepare an even stronger brine solution of 1.5 cups salt to 3 L of water.
    I’ll figure out the substitution for my 6 olives when the time comes.
  • Add the new brine solution to your olives and his time, close the lid of your container firmly.
  • Keep said olives in a cool, dark place for at least 2 months. The longer you keep them, the less bitter they’ll be.
    Just remember to check them for gas. Literally. Bulging or (almost) exploding container tops are apparently, a by-product of the fermentation.
    Also, to reduce the bitterness, you can change the brine solution every month or so.
  • These olives can be stored for a year or so in the refrigerator.
Dry salt-cured olives

Stop here if you intend to dehydrate your olives to death.

Greek-style brine-cured olives

This is how we roll (or swim) in Greece.

Now, there are some warnings about mould growing on the surface of the brine (it is apparently quite common), and the best way to prevent this is to make sure your containers are airtight, and to keep them in a cool, dark place.
(Understand now the emphasis?)

There was also a note on botulism poisoning — WHICH IS, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, FATAL — in the case of eating contaminated lye-cured olives.
But to be sure, I’d throw out any mouldy / soft / bad-smelling olives and sterilise (or throw out) the holding containers.

Love, The NyonyaCelup

* Thanks to the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Olives: Safe Methods for Home Pickling (2007)

** Also, The NyonyaCelup does not pretend to be an expert in matters pertaining to pickling. Readers are advised to do your own research, with reliable sources, and come to your own informed mature conclusions regarding safe methods for home preservation of food.

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7 responses »

  1. hi nyona celup,

    ah very interesting about your olive find. may i ask a few questions? do these olives taste the same as the ones from europe?
    do they have the same oily characteristics as olives from europe?

    hope to get a reply from you.

    thank you.

    • Hi Tang.
      It’s so nice to have a reader! 😀
      I can’t comment much on the taste / texture / “oiliness” of my olives yet as the first batch is still soaking in salt water.
      I will however, keep you posted on their progress!
      Are you thinking of getting one yourself?

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