Ok, so I know that for most people, pickling their own olives is fairly unrealistic. Having said that, my parents have been on holiday around this time of year and bought olives in local markets abroad and then successfully pickled the olives back in London.
We´re getting to that time of year here were the olives are fattening up nicely after the rain finally started and the boughs are beginning to bend under their weight. Custom here says that they should be picked when the moon is waning, that is, in the week following a full moon. I expect we´ll be picking early December for crushing and making olive oil, but this month I picked a few buckets full for us to eat over the coming months.
We have a few varieties growing in our little olive grove. Large fat olives, the kind they often put in a dry martini. They´re called Manzanilla and have a pleasant nutty taste. These are the olives in the bowl on the left.
The most common variety round here is called Verdial (right bucket) and makes excellent olive oil for eating “raw” i.e. in salads or on bread. They are medium sized and have a sweet fruity flavour.
We also have some tiny olives (centre bucket) which are a variety called Picual with a slightly more bitter and peppery taste.
I picked a mixture of these and put them into my most glamorous buckets, and covered them with water. Luckily we can get spring water here as chlorinated or tap water does tend to give them a slightly different taste.
The water is changed daily until they lose their bitterness. Smaller ones take less time, and if you split them first they take even less time. The process can take anything from a few days to a month…patience, patience.
Finally, when they´ve reached the right stage (and you´ll be tasting them to check them), they get a final rinse and are packed into containers, flavoured with herbs (I used dried chili, garlic, lemon peel and rosemary) and covered in a salty brine.
Just a few days more of patience and they´re ready to enjoy. They´ll keep for months, up to a year if you´ve made enough to get you through to next November. As time goes on they may get a little softer and a harmless scum, which can just be removed, will appear on top of the brine.
Now, how do you like your martini – shaken or stirred?