Sometimes the “slow food” way of life is slow. I don’t know if it’s simply natural impatience, or part of an ingrained heritage from the American life, but I rather enjoy instant gratification. What is that proverb again? All good things come to those who wait — I heard that more than once growing up. Well, curing your own olives is a simple procedure, but you do have to wait as they cure. Thankfully, good things do come to those who wait, and good olives are certainly worth waiting for.
My box of olives the day they arrived. So beautiful!
These bright green, beautiful olives come from Chaffin Orchards, kindly given to me to experiment with and blog about. (Later this month, they will be selling black olives for home curers as well.) These olives have a rich heritage and are grown in a mature grove on an organic farm. As Chaffin Orchards explain, “These olives for home curing are Barounis which come from our 50-year-old majestic groves. Barouni olives are ideal for the home curer. They're large green olives that ship well and are rather forgiving during the curing process. In fact they were originally planted nearly half a century ago for a farmer cooperative that was shipping olives to the East Coast for folks interested in home curing. Being that olives only grow well in Mediterranean climates (no rain in the summer) and most people can't get them in their own locale, we thought it only fitting to reopen that opportunity to people around the country to buy these wonderful olives and to create a new family tradition.”
As I have started the process of curing these olives, two things have amazed me. The first is that someone at some time in history figured out how to cure olives. They are naturally quite bitter, which is why you have to cure them. Who saw beyond the bitterness of the olive and saw a delicacy? My hat is off to that person. The second thing that amazes me about the process is that you can cure olives with just water. A simple process of soaking the green olives in water, then draining and refilling is all that it takes to remove much of the bitterness. I am going to be using both the water cure (and then moving it to a brine), plus a brine cure.
You can either "smash" the olive, or slice it several times before curing. This helps leech out the bitterness during the curing process.
But the question is, why should you cure your own olives? Here are a couple of reasons I am plunging into this world.
1. I don’t like canned goods. Canned goods generally have high amounts of BPA, which as an endocrine disrupter can mimic estrogen and can be especially damaging to unborn babies. While some companies are removing BPA from the lining of their cans, some feel that there are still un-researched toxins in the lining of most canned goods. We still use some canned goods, but we try to limit it as much as possible.
2. Olives are really expensive. We all love olives, but they are an expensive food item, especially if you try to get some of the more “natural” canned or jarred olives. The gourmet “raw” olives have always looked so incredible to me … but I have never been able to fit it into our budget. Curing my own “raw” olives allows me to save money on a high-end product.
3. As I cure my olives, I am also attempting to help cure my instant gratification viewpoint towards food. I am so far removed from the farmers that must be a part of my history. I haven’t had to till, plant, water, tend, weed, harvest every vegetable and/or grain that is on my table. The fact is, my busy “modern” life has left me complaining at times about how much work it takes to get a homemade dinner on the table. But compared to my ancestors, my food comes pretty darn easy. However, curing my own olives isn’t a self-punishment for my sometimes bad attitude! No, it is a cure because it helps bring just a little acknowledgement in my heart to the gift of food. And the more you are involved in the process of making food, the more pride (the good kind of pride) you feel when you share it with your family and your friends. It is good for me to get more involved sometimes. It is always good for me to be patient and grateful.
My olives are still in the first part of their curing process, so I am not going to share a personal recipe, but I thought I’d share some helpful links in case you want to venture into the bright waters of olive curing.
My olives during their "water cure".
1. TLC Water Cured Green Olives: This basic recipe gives simple instructions for curing green olives.
2. This post at honest-food.com doesn’t give a recipe, but does give a lot of helpful information and tips. I have already referred to it several times.
3. The Lost Art of Curing Olives: Recipe and information
4. Wikihow.com, of course, also gives a great overview of the different methods
5. The University of California shares a lot of really good information and recipes here as well (PDF)
Anyone else out there cure olives? I’d love to hear from you!
Related story on MNN: 7 things you can make yourself instead of buying