I have a horror of nurturing fruit trees that don’t overwhelm me with abundance. I expect to drown in peaches or wade through citrus as the seasons go.
So when hubby planted the olives, I expected great things of them, notwithstanding the fact that every one told me we a) weren’t in a Mediterranean climate and b) it was too humid here, leading to peacock spot disease and c) just don’t because we just don’t.
That is what we like to call a “red rag to a bull”. Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do in my own paddock. So we planted them and waited. And waited. Four years in I called for the chainsaw to get rid of them. I’d had enough with no return. Nope, hubby thinks that if they are greenish, that’s enough return for him. So every six months, I would point out how I wanted them chopped down.
Until this year, year 10 of growing. After 10 years of heaping hate and vitriol over the olive trees, this year we had a nice crop. Not huge but more than enough. I will never hear the end of this self-congratulation from hubby and I’m sure that the trees are looking smug as well.
But then I had to work out what to do with the olives. Grabbing more of my second hand jam jars, I surfed the web trying to figure out not only how I could process them but what would be the easiest and most efficient way to do this. Sorted into green and black, I decided to brine the green and layer dry salt into the black.
You know on the movies where they have those lovely homes with big country kitchens that you could just imagine filled with preserves and cooking? Yeah, well they are movie sets. And real country kitchens end up with food on the floor under the table because not only have you got tubs of brining olives on the table but jars of summer seeds, plates of drying seeds, the fruit bowl that doesn’t fit in the fridge, cuttings that you just have to plant, fermenting ginger beer and every other half finished job on the place. So we spent weeks while daily replacing the salt water each day and waiting for these olives to get like the ones in the shop.
Did you know that commercially, olives are processed using caustic soda? Think about that next time you have a martini. Any wonder the food chain remains my number one concern.
Eventually, the chief olive taster told me that they were fine and you will see that they have been bottled in brine with a layer of olive oil on the top to seal them from the air. The black ones were rinsed and soaked in fresh water and I will preserve them in olive oil for use.
All in all, if I do this again, I would brine the whole lot. It uses less salt and much less olive oil which is an expensive bought input to my household.
Ten years to the first olive harvest. It was a surprise and I should not underestimate the trees too much. I’d still like to chop out those useless pecans though.