Istiaia, Evia, Greece
Tue 7 Dec 2010 22 °C
Aside from the olives taken to the press, we kept a few crates full to preserve for eating.
Whoever it was that discovered olives to be edible, certainly deserves some kind of award for perseverance. For anyone who has tried eating a fresh olive, has also - like me - spat it out and ran to the nearest water source to wash their mouth out.
First I am preparing the green olives. Green olives are simply the ones that haven't yet ripened. Because of this, they are even more bitter than they would otherwise be.
To remove the bitterness I had to soak the olives in a tub of water for 10 days, changing the water every day. Before putting them in water, I laid the olives on a stone paver and gave them a tap with a hammer to bruise them. If you tap them hard enough, you can feel a little 'pop' as the flesh breaks. The trick is to achieve this without breaking the actual skin of the olive. An alternative method is to poke a few small holes in each olive with a toothpick. I believe you could soak them without breaking the flesh to produce a firmer olive (my preference for eating), however they may need a longer soaking to prevent the bitter taste.
After this initial process, I transferred the olives to barrels for their next stage of soaking. I made up a solution of salt and water. The scientific method taught to me to measure the amount of salt in the water was;
"When an egg floats, with about the size of a 2euro coin exposed above the water, you have enough salt".
So that's what I did, adding salt bit by bit until my egg floated to the top of the barrel. Just in time too as I was getting quite wet, reaching down to the bottom of the barrel to retrieve the egg. In go the olives as well as a layer of olive oil, 1cm thick, to stop any air from getting to the olives.
On top of this, we added for flavour, a few sticks of dried oregano and a few sliced lemons. Other recipes involve oranges or vinegar and sunflower oil.
Unfortunately I won't be around when these ones are ready to eat - that will have to wait until I have my own olive tree in my own backyard. Only a matter of time.