Brine Curing Olives

Olives in bowl
Olives in bowl

I’ve been curing olives for a few years now. It used to be easier when living in Toronto. It was merely a quick walk to the local fruit market, which thankfully the city is still rich with, to buy a bag of raw olives. Now living in Cobble Hill,  it’s much more difficult to find fresh olives, as they’re not available locally.

Fortunately for me, I was headed to Vancouver on family business last week. I called Bosa Foods, the only place I’ve found reasonably close (a mere 4 hours away by ferry and car) where one can buy them, and was told that they had just received their annual shipment of green olives (black ones will come a bit later in the season, sometime next month).

I made sure to pick up two 10k bags, as last year the single bag I’d bought had been barely enough for our own annual use, and didn’t allow for any gifts (or product for my farm stand). To be sure of maximum freshness and quality, I began to prepare them the minute I got home.

Soaking Olives
Soaking Olives

The first stage of curing involves leaching the tannins out to reduce the natural bitterness of the olive fruit, the second is brining them, either in a wet or dry cure. These instructions are for wet cure, I’ll try dry cure when I get the dark olives next month and write about that process as they progress.

There are several pages online with instructions for how to wet cure olives, some of which suggest using lye, a caustic solution, to soften the olives prior to bringing. There are also instructions for using merely water, which struck me as wiser and which in practice, yields excellent olives.

I’ve seen instructions for whacking them with a mallet, which I tried once, and shan’t be attempting again. Not only did the mallet recoil and almost hit me in the forehead at least twice, but the olives when cured, were bruised. Meh.

Slicing Olives
Slicing Olives

The Greek method, slicing them on either side lengthwise, is perfect…but have the water bath ready to pop them into immediately, or you will have badly oxidized slashes on either side, as this happens very quickly…as I learned last year. That would have been a bigger problem if I’d had enough to give away, so I guess it was just as well that I made fewer then.

So, all that said, this is easy peasy. Get olives, fill a jug with water (I use a party drinks dispenser with spigot, so that it’s easier to empty each day, as the water needs to be refreshed daily). Slice olives into water bath. Change water daily, after one week add brine and leave to age for a month in a loosely covered jar or crock, stirring daily if possible. Put a weight (like a plate) on the top to keep them submerged, or they will go mouldy and infect the batch.

Olives in jars
Olives in jars

Use a 1:10 (10%) salt:water ratio. If you have kids and want to amuse them with science, test the density of the solution by floating an egg on top. If it floats, you have enough salt. If not, add more.

It will be another few days before I am ready to brine the current batch, for which I’ll use seawater which has been evaporating to about 1:6 and boil it down to the required density…mainly because I live at the beach and a local salt company uses the same spot to draw from, so why not? I’ll report back when these are done to brag about how great they taste. I’ll report back when they’re ready. Maybe with a recipe for tapenade.

Olive harvest in Sicily

Trees before harvest, needing to be pruned
Trees before harvest, needing to be pruned

Article by Jadro Subic, photos by Jadro Subic and David Gollob

When you talk about olives in Sicily, it is more about the three thousand years of ‘olive culture’ than it is about just olive cultivation.

Pruning the trees
Pruning the trees

Though not everybody agrees on which part of Sicily has the best olive oil, the most prestigious DOP (denominazione di origine protetta) is the area of Monti Iblei, the mounts stretching from Catania to Siracusa and Ragusa.

The most favorable altitude is around 700 meters above the sea, though some trust that the closeness to the sea improves the olives antioxidant properties. There are several varieties used both for oil production and brine or oil-curing.

I’ve always enjoyed my olive oil, even as a kid, but here in Sicily, no matter how much one knows about it, there’s much more to learn. Especially at this time of year, it becomes the favourite subject of local conversation.

Wherever you go, people offer advice to strangers in stores, restaurants, or at the market, not to mention friends and neighbours. Your accountant, your realtor, even your doctor will have something to add or to suggest.

Olives in netting on ground
Olives in netting on ground

Once we found ourselves owners of a lovely property with six first-class olive trees, they were all eager to explain to us (Canadians) the worth of our newly-acquired fortune, a few even offered to guide us through the process. We are of course very appreciative of all their support

For olive oil pressing, it all must be done within 36 hours. The day of the harvest the special light-net sheets are spread around the tree, for no olive should touch the ground directly. We filled six large breathable sacks and left them in the shade.

The following day, David took the olives to one of the community presses in the neighbouring town and watched the whole process play out with a bunch of other (mostly) men doing the same. He noticed a clear difference in attitude between the locals and everyone else. There was a retired science teacher from northern Italy who got a bit more respect from the locals, but otherwise…

Every batch is done separately, so you stand there and follow your own olives being weight (we had 167kg), put in a special container, cleaned from branches and leaves, washed, and so on.. More or less 2 hours to get your very own olive oil. To quote David:The perfume of olive oil in the mill was intoxicating… people here take this incredibly seriously and there was an atmosphere of excitement among the crowd, mostly 60+ with olive-bellies…

We brought a 30 litre barrel and filled 4 cans, 5 litres each. there’s a bit more at the bottom of the barrel, perhaps enough to fill a 1 litre bottle.

It had to be decanted since there should be no air inside the containers while it sits and sediment the residue. I just tasted a spoon of it on a piece of bread. Both the smell and the taste are incredibly rich.

Jadro olive oil bread
Jadro olive oil bread

Pierogis (Ukranian Style)

Recipe by Gayle Hurmuses, photo by Gisela McKay

I typically make large quantities of pierogis, usually with a friend and while watching an old movie, but it would be easy to make these in small quantities as well whenever one has leftover mashed potatoes, or the opportunity to make extra for a meal..

It’s a simple matter of mixing sour cream and flour together in nearly equal amounts…about half again more flour than sour cream…so 2 Tbsp of sour cream to each 3 Tbsp of flour.

You should let the pierogis  dry out a bit before cooking, as it is a pasta of sorts. I turn them over when the tops are dry to let the bottom air out. Be sure to lay them on cloth, not paper, as they will stick to anything but fabric.

My Ukrainian friend Shona says that at a pierogi party you would use a double bed to dry them on, and would not start cooking until the bed was full. Then, start cooking the first ones that were made. She also has suggested that when they are made and before they are frozen (if you are making enough to freeze, and you should) you should boil them all, she says and toss them in melted butter to coat them.

Tomato Ketchup with Roasted Red Pepper and Sundried Tomatoes

Homemade ketchup - easy to make and uses the scraps from tomato canning and sauce making.
Homemade ketchup – easy to make and uses the scraps from tomato canning and sauce making.

I’ve been making variations on this recipe for nearly 20 years now.  This is the best version of this sauce to date .

It’s especially timely now while tomatoes are at their most plentiful, and an ideal way to use up all the skins and cores generated in canning.

If you are canning/skinning a full bushel of tomatoes, using these trimmings would make several jars of ketchup even without using any whole tomatoes, which of course you may also do.

It’s also very nice with green tomatoes, green apples, and cider vinegar, with a larger percentage of cloves to peppercorns, and intended to be used with pork.

 

Nocino

Nocino in Brandy
Nocino in Brandy

Recipe and photos by Gayle Hurmuses

Nocino is a fabulous digestif, a traditional Italian bitter made from unripe walnuts (any type) that can be made into a lovely liqueur given the right treatment.

The articles I read before making last year’s batch suggested that it would be gone before the year of proper aging was complete and the authors were right. The first few tastes were much like Fernet Branca, but over time it mellowed nicely into something much more subtle and compelling.

Traditionally, the latest date to make Nocino is June 24. Thanks to a late winter in BC, we’re weeks behind, and in late June, the walnuts were still barely marble-sized. They’re nice and plump today however, and the shells have not yet begun to form, so it’s a perfect time to begin. From the look of the fruits there are still a few more days to go before it’s no longer possible.

This recipe will give wonderful results. You may not want to share. I didn’t. O:-)

Walnuts for Nocino

Centennial Park Cob Oven in Duncan, BC

One of the great assets of the Cowichan Valley is the Centennial Park Cob KitchenIt’s a beautiful Cob pizza oven and cooktop available to the community.
The Cob Kitchen can be used by individuals for family use, community organizations who wish to host an event or program, or by local businesses.  One local baker uses this kitchen to bake products to be delivered to her customers. 
Requirements are: Completion of a 1 hour hands-on training, a registration form, a small insurance fee, and a donation.
As the time of this post, there are two Cob Kitchen trainings coming up!
  • Monday June 19, 2017, from 10 – 11 am: 3 spots open
  • Monday June 26, 2017 from 1 – 2 pm: 3 spots open
Bookings may be made through their website at this page.
More than merely a kitchen, the Cob Oven is also a community art project, featuring work by: Maynard JohnnyNan GoodshipPat Amos, and Sarah Way.
Cowichan Community Kitchen in Use
Cowichan Community Kitchen in Use

The Cob Kitchen is sponsored by  the BC Arts Council, Peninsula Co-op, City of Duncan, and Matrix Marble and Stone. It is a project of Cowichan Community Kitchen, a local agency that helps families learn to plan, budget and cook at their partner facilities, and bring meals home for the family.

Operated at five locations throughout the valley (including the Cob Kitchen), the Cowichan Community Kitchens provides valuable services to the community in the Cowichan Valley Regional District. 

Cowichan Community Kitchens is sponsored by:St. John’s Anglican Church, Duncan, St. John’s Anglican Church, Cobble Hill, Lake Cowichan Community Hall, Warmland House, True Grain Bakery – Cowichan Bay, Valley Floors, Webtec, North Cowichan, Rotary. CVRD Area C, Cobble Hill, CVRD Area D, Cowichan Bay, CVRD Area F, Honeymoon Bay, City of Duncan, Jackson on the Moon, and an anonymous donor.

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