Olives in Salt
I have had many attempts at preserving and preparing olives but none of them worked very well until I found this simple technique.
When olives are prepared by any method we are basically doing two things. 1. Stopping the olives rotting. 2. Getting rid of some of the bitterness from the olives.
My technique is very easy. Just pick some black olives (the later you pick them the more oil content they have) then put them in a container with sea salt. It is best if the container is totally open at the top and it is good if the sun shines on them to evaporate some of the liquid. Mix them around every few days with a stick or with your hands. At first a lot of liquid collects at the bottom of the container. You can pour this off.
The salt draws the liquid and most of the bitterness from the olives. Eventually after about 6 weeks the olives become totally dry.
Separate them from the salt with a garden riddle or any other type of sieve. After this you have dessicated olives which you can store for as long as you like.
Every couple of days put a handful of olives in a glass jar of water in the kitchen. It takes anything between 8 and 48 hours for them to re-hydrate. Put a handful of the re-hydrated olives on salads, pizzas or anything you want. If you put them in a bowl and them put a few drops of olive oil over them they taste and look like the Greek olives I used to buy when I lived in Finsbury Park London.
I was really excited to find an olive cooperative where they press the olives using traditional methods to make the oil. The oil has a fuller, fruitier taste than other virgin olive oils but is fantastic. We had taken most of our olives from this year’s harvest to the normal cooperative but just found this one in time so that we could take the last load of olives there. Because of the rain, we weren’t able to finish picking all the olives but hopefully they will still be on the trees next time we go up and we can take them here. Here are some pictures of the cooperative with a brief explanation:
You park on the right of the grid and pour your olives through it.
You then use a broom to sweep through any that are stuck on the rungs.
The olives don’t need to be cleaned before they are put through and twigs and leaves are removed in the next stage.
The olives are taken up from the pit by the first conveyor belt and air is blown through them to remove the leaves and twigs.
The clean olives then travel on a second conveyor belt to a third which takes them up further and then drops them into the green weighing hopper. The ones in the picture are actually our olives – all picked by hand that day.
Unfortunately the day we went it had been raining so the weighing scales weren’t working as they should have been and our olives only weighed in at 1kg – a bit disappointing. However, having unloaded them by hand and put them through again it was a relief to see the correct weight on the scales – 370kg.
The next stage of the process goes on inside the building where the olives are milled and pressed. During the milling, the olives are passed through three rotating millstones to produce a sludgy mixture. This is then “iced” thickly onto plastic raffia mats.
The mats are threaded onto a pole which is then inserted into a press. By means of a system of chains and pulleys, the press compresses the mats upwards and oil comes out through a tap at the bottom of the press.
The subsequent bottling process takes another six months. Our oil should be ready in June and I’m looking forward to trying it.