"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A little bit of Italy...?

WGuy and DD have approximately 60 olive trees on their smallholding.  Not big trees, but big enough to bear fruit.  As their relocation to their smallholding is delayed, I asked, and got permission to harvest their olives for them.

We go over to their place every so often to check out that everything is secure, and on one of those visits I noticed that they had olives on their trees.  I was amazed - I thought the trees were still too small - but, there again, I guess they were planted by the previous owner about 3 - 4 years ago.
This is a pic of some of the roughly
60 olives trees on WGuy and DD's
When we arrived at their smallholding on the 7th April I immediately noticed that their trees were carrying varying quantities of olives - strange, because they are not on irrigation, and they all depend on the same rainfall.  No matter, RMan and I would just pick the biggest, most mature looking fruit. 
Green, speckled and purple olives on the same tree
It is an incredibly relaxing pastime - picking olives.  Out in the open, the wind gently moving the air, sun on your shoulders and hands working at waist / shoulder level - at this stage.  As the trees get bigger I'm going to have to find another way to harvest the olives...
RMan - before he got impatient... LOL
There were green olives, purple speckled olives, and purple olives.  We picked a total of 3.6 kgs of olives from those trees :)
3kgs was all that would fit in my bowl for this
weigh in
I instinctively decided to separate the colours - or is that the organised person (a.k.a. control freak) in me coming out (again)...?  I subsequently discovered that the green and black olives should be processed differently - ah well, next year...

The preparation method I used is as follows:

The olives were rinsed.
The olives after being sorted into their different colours
To remove the initial bitterness which is inherent to freshly picked olives, the flesh of the purple olives were slashed  - I left the green ones whole.  They were then placed in containers and covered with plain water - using a upturned plate, plastic bag filled with water, or whatever, to ensure that all the olives are underwater.  This water is changed daily for 14 days.  Rinse the olives again.

Then make a brine solution - basically you add salt to water until an egg floats.
The mixture of salt and water should be strong
enough to float an egg
 Put the olives in your warm sterile jars and fill with the brine solution...
The olives in their jars, totally covered with the
brine solution
... in order to ensure that there was a little air as possible in the jars I overfilled them.  Messy, but it was an easy way to ensure that the olives were going to be totally submerged.
The jars were filled to the brim with brine - can
you see the last tiny air bubble at 12 o'clock just

at the end of the one cut in the olive?
 Pop the lid on...
They will now sit in the brine solution for 6 - 9 weeks
... and then leave the olives in the brine solution for 6 - 9 weeks.  This helps to remove the last of the bitterness.  At 6 weeks taste an olive - if it is still bitter tasting, allow the olives to remain in the brine solution longer.  Taste weekly.  When they seem ready, rinse the olives and then add vinegar ( wine, red wine, apple cider - whatever is your preference) to water at a ratio of 1:3 (vinegar to water).

Being adventurous, I am going to leave 2 jars plain.  Another jar or two will get some rosemary sprigs added, another garlic, and another some chillies.  [I have just been given two pepperdews by one of our neighbours.  They are a mild sweet pepper which scores 1177 on the Scoville scale - it's just enough to leave a burning sensation on your lips if you decide to taste it raw like I did LOL, but definitely mild enough to add to food - even raw.  I added them to a corn and red capsicum relish that I made, and I reserved the seeds.  I'll plant those next spring and add them to next years' olives :)  ]
Pepperdews information one them can be found
here and here
Then the olives in the vinegar solution jars will be covered with enough olive oil to make the contents impervious to air.  This will prevent mould forming.

The olives will be allowed to stand in the vinegar solution for another 4 - 6 weeks before we taste them.

I'll let you know what they taste like after roughly 12 - 15 weeks from commencing with this - which will be between the 6th - 27th July  :)


Quinn said...

So interesting! I had no idea how to process olives. Will be looking forward to hearing about your results. Must be hard to wait!

Dani said...

Quinn - This is my first time, so I'm not sure if I got the process right... Will be terrific if I did :)

DFW said...

I just told my husband that I would like to plant a few olive trees. I love the color of the leaves, if nothing else.

1st Man said...

Yay! You've inspired me. We have one olive tree currently (growing in a large clay pot in the back yard in town) and I'm moving it to the farm soon. I've thought about getting a few more because the one we have in the back yard puts on fruit every year. Now I KNOW i'm going to do it. Maybe not SIXTY, lol, but definitely a few more. I've thought about lining the driveway with them, but then I've also got a clearing that would be nice with maybe ten trees or so. Thanks for sharing the steps and thanks for inspiring me.

Now where to find some where in town, ha.

Dani said...

DFW - Never mind the leaves - imagine harvesting your own olives in a few years time LOL

Dani said...

1st Man - Lining the driveway sounds like an excellent idea - olive trees can take wind :) Why not line the driveway and place them in your clearing?

Kris said...

What a project! And look at all those olives. LOL I buy a small jar of green olives at Christmas - and they last me all year. I hope yours turn out to your liking. Keep us posted.

Dani said...

Kris - LOL - olives are very good for you. They contain all the benefits of olive oil, plus more.

If it works out then it will be worth the effort... :)

Linda said...

What fun! I've been meaning to plant an olive tree for ages. They grow well in our climate. I've just placed an order for a bucket load of fruit trees (no olive) so it will have to wait till next year.

Leigh said...

How amazing those olive trees are! I bought one to keep potted, but it didn't make it. Too bad because Dan loves his olives. Very clever about turning the jars upside down to brine. No exposure to air that way.

Dani said...

Linda - If you do plant an olive, make it two or three. They're happier with company :)

Dani said...

Leigh - I also had potted ones in the town garden - they never produced any fruit...

re: the upside down jars - that was my thinking... LOL