Tag Archives: olive curing

An Olive Update: the first taste test!

This past weekend we tasted the first batch of olives.  I flavored them two ways.  1) bay, lemon, garlic, and rosemary and 2) bay, lemon, garlic, and thyme.  I removed the garlic from each jar after one week.  Holy mother of garlic fiends!  Does that garlic get strong in the brine!  Lesson learned: use one clove per jar and see what happens.  Several is much too pungent.

I love rosemary so I fully expected to love it in my olives.  I did not.  Philip didn’t like it much either.  You know who tasted both and preferred the rosemary olives?  Max.  I am amazed that he wanted to try either of them – he recently tried his first commercially made green olive and didn’t like it.  But he wanted to try mine.  The texture of olives is still throwing him off but he liked the flavor.  Especially the rosemary flavor.  My take on them: very sharp and much too piney, overwhelming herb flavor.

Philip and I both loved the thyme flavored ones.  SO GOOD.  Excuse me but this is what I said when I tasted them “These are SO FUCKING GOOD!!”*  The texture is perfect.  The flavor of these ones was more subtly herby but with the briny flavor of olive coming through.

I was completely excited by how good these turned out until Philip put a damper on my excitement ten minutes later by saying he felt a sudden wave of nausea and broke out in a little sweat.  He thinks it was the olives.  I denied the possibility very strongly.  I do not poison members of my family with my preserving projects!

However – I had just burped up pine flavor before he poked a giant hole in my triumph so I had to admit to myself (but not to him!) that there might be something in his experience.  That rosemary flavoring was really harsh and Philip has a delicate stomach.  I’m not saying that to be mean.  He’s tough in many ways but his stomach is not an organ of great fortitude.

It is the easiest thing in the world to make him get queasy.  Here’s how you do it:

You “Hey Philip.”

Him “What?”

You “I think that milk was bad.  I feel queasy.”

(wait two minutes)

Him “I feel queasy too.”

See?  Or you can just make him clean out the litter box 15 minutes before having him taste your olives.  Or just ask him “Are you feeling queasy?” just asking him that question has often been effective.**

My theory is that those rosemary olives are unpleasantly potent and upsetting to stomachs.  Until I have proved this is the problem I will not share my olives with anyone else.  The next step is to taste only the thyme olives and see what happens.  But I have to let Philip’s fear fade a little bit first.

Fingers crossed.

Next up – flavoring the second batch.  But not with rosemary.

*That’s what I said in my head and then put on facebook.  I did not say it in front of Max.  Although I completely approve of swearing on general principle, I don’t swear in front of him.  Except by accident.

** While I can make fun of him for being so highly suggestible – I have to remind you that I’m emetaphobic and this means that if I know someone is sick with the flu and are vomiting or if I see or hear vomit – I will become nauseous immediately.  However, my stomach is very strong and rarely feels a twinge that is not produced as a byproduct of anxiety or proximity to sick people.

Chipmunk Disorder Flareup (collecting food for the winter in full swing)

These are olives my friend Sharon and I foraged from someone’s yard.  Don’t worry – we asked permission and were granted it by the really nice ladies who lived there.  They even supplied us with a step ladder to get at some of the higher branches.  When we walked up their steps and rang their bell I thought they’d probably think we were trying to bring them some religion and worried they might be hostile.  Or maybe they’d think we were on to some make-up scam and be hostile.  I’m glad we took the chance and I’m equally glad that they were so agreeable.

There are more olive pictures at the bottom of this post.  I’ve been meaning to share this disturbing picture with you: this is what happens when you think you’re being all thrifty and freeze “tomato water” for use in soups.  What I don’t want to know is why is the water part all yellowy?  Such a nasty surprise to find in my freezer.

I also wanted to chronicle how much you have to cook tomato sauce down to get a nice thick sauce.  This is the pre-cooked picture.  See how full that big pot is?  Do you know how much work it took to clean, score, core and blanch then peel, squeeze, and dice that big pot of tomatoes?  If you’ve done this before then you DO know.

The steam didn’t cooperate with my camera but you can see through it that the tomato level has dropped dramatically.

This is my 22 pound French heirloom squash that the produce stand people called “Peanut Squash” – it was difficult to find anything definitive on the subject but I’m completely sure that this squash is actually called Galeux d’Eysines.  It’s fairly pumpkin-like in flavor but is less watery than pumpkin.  This mean-ass squash caused me to cut myself.  When wrestling such enormous cucurbitas – I recommend being particularly aware of the location of all your fingers in relation to your knife.

Olives are one of my favorite foods.  The only kind of olive I’m not fond of are the black canned Mission olives ubiquitous on pizzas from chain restaurants.  I don’t hate them but I would never voluntarily add them to food.  But give me any kind of green olive or black olive that is salty, or salty and vinegary, or salty and herby – yeah, big fan here.  Years ago I read a whole book about olives because my Grandfather was interested in them.  He told me stories about the olive orchard he bought in Italy when he was still a young-ish man.  It was supposedly one of the locations written about in Homer’s Odyssey.  My grandmother eventually forced him to sell the orchard and I got the feeling he still wasn’t over it in his 80′s.  Big clue as to how come they got divorced eventually.

The book I read was “Olives” by Mort Rosenblum.  It was informative and whet my appetite for curing olives on my own.  It also irritated me – Mort is something of a pompous windbag – though he may not be like that in real life at all.  It’s just the tone of the book and honestly, I read it so long ago now I’m not sure I’d have the same opinion the second time around.  The point is that for over 12 years I’ve had the ambition to cure my own olives but back then it didn’t occur to me that I might be able to forage some and I certainly didn’t have any access to fresh olives for sale.

Since that time I have become a pretty good forager of walnuts, nettles, elderberries, blackberries, rose hips, and plantain – but until moving back to California there were no olives to forage for.  But now I am seeing them everywhere.  The biggest problem is that a lot of the ones I’m seeing are too small to bother with curing them.  Sharon and I definitely got enough to play with and in just a few minutes I’m going to introduce my haul to a lye bath*.

What I really want to do today is drive all over town looking for more olives to forage.

I am in full chipmunk mode now.  I’m taking the dog for a walk to see if the walnuts have started falling in the neighborhood.  Sometimes I wish I could forage and preserve food all the time – without other obligations like working or writing books (not really an obligation since I am unpublished and completely unknown – let’s just call it an obligation to myself) or running errands.  I want to spend all my time cooking and experimenting with food preserving.  And foraging.

I must go get dressed and made up – the olives are waiting for me and I need lipstick today.  I should also probably check on my fermenting pickles, shouldn’t I?  You might be curious how they’re doing about now.  I’m a little scared to look.  Drat – I also need to clean my work table.

And all I want to do is go collect nuts and fruits in my cheeks to store in my tree trunk.

*In case you’re curious – I’m using this recipe for curing olives with lye from Hank Shaw’s blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook