Olives are synonymous with Italy. As you move from the north to the south, the olive trees get taller and more twisted, each taking a form of its own, and if they could share their history, they would recount many stories of hardship and pleasure, of companionship and treachery, of honor and love or infamy and hate, of family struggles and successes. They carry the whole history of Italy through the ages, under different masters.
There are many ways to preserve olives; all involve salt, some involve water, and some involve caustic soda or lye. (We ask that you be careful when using caustic soda.) Here are two basic recipes that you can vary as you wish.
Always pick the freshest, firmest, non-bruised olives. If you have an olive tree, pick them when the first of the olives on the tree are changing from green to purple. This will ensure that they have the most flavor.
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OLIVE VERDI A SALAMOIA
Green olives in brine
1. Soak olives in fresh water for three days, changing water daily.
2. Put olives in clean glass jars and add a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon and some fennel seeds to each jar.
3. In a pot, add 100 grams of salt per liter of water (enough to fill all jars). Bring the brine to boiling point and then add to jars. Seal immediately. Boiling the brine ensures that olives will not develop a layer of fungus on top.
4. Leave jars in a dark cupboard for two months, then open. They will fizz furiously, which is normal and is the result of carbon dioxide from the fermentation that has turned the bitter fruit into beautiful, tasty olives.
5. Add a fine layer of oil to stop the brine going moldy before resealing.
OLIVE NERE SALATE
Salted black olives
A favourite recipe from the south of Italy. Choose ripe, unbruised olives, preferably Manzanello, Verdale or black Kalamata. You can’t use Spanish Queen with this recipe.
olive oil, if required
1. Place olives in a plastic tub and add 200 grams of salt per kilo of olives.
2. Mix thoroughly, then place a weight of approximately 10 kilos on the olives.
3. Remove the weight daily and agitate the olives. Replace the weight each time.
4. After six to eight days, taste the olives. They should be somewhat shriveled and have a slight bitterness.
5. Drain olives and spread on a table to dry for a day.
6. Put in plastic bags and freeze, or seal in vacuum bags. You can also put them in jars and cover with olive oil.
7. Serve with freshly sliced garlic and fennel seeds.
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