Thoughtful Food


I’ve got the cure! by Leda
September 26, 2010, 9:21 am
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Did you know that you cannot pick an olive from a tree and eat it?

If you did, you would be perfectly shocked at the horrible bitter taste that you encountered. So, how do bitter olives on a tree turn into those delightfully tasty morsels that you and I are used to eating?

The most common way that olives are cured or de-bittered is by soaking them in lye. Lye (sodium hydroxide) is a poison. It can be harmful if it comes into contact with your skin and the fumes are also toxic. Lye is the main ingredient in Drano. The thing that makes lye an attractive curing agent is that it speeds up the process. Not worth the risk in my opinion.

There are a few alternative methods to lye curing: such as brine curing, water curing, and dry salt curing. Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be introduced to all of these methods. The event I attended was put on by Chaffin Family Orchards in Oroville, CA and included a tour of their 100 year old olive orchard as well as a curing seminar put on by olive-curing guru Don Landis. The orchards were absolutely beautiful and the trees looked like something out of a fairytale.

I knew I had to try out one of these curing methods, so I ordered 5 pounds of olives from Chaffin and came home with a mission. I elected to water cure my olives because I wanted to expedite the process (okay, I get points for not lye curing, but I am still kind of impatient sometimes).

Here is Landis’ water cured olive recipe:

*use firm green olives, any variety will work (I am using Barouni olives from Chaffin Family Orchards)

1- sort out any bruised fruit and remove stems

2- slice each olive with a knife and place immediately in water

3- when all olives are sliced and in water, hold them down from the surface. They cannot float and contact air.

4- Change the water every 24 until de-bittered (can start tasting after 2 weeks, but may take up to 4 weeks depending on your taste)

5- prepare the finish brine. 1 pound of canning and pickling salt per 1 gallon of water. You can add any herbs and seasonings you like at this point.

6- Jar olives and refrigerate. The olives can last up to 1 year if refrigerated properly.

Enjoy!

-Farmer Leda