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.

Bill’s Basic Chicken Broth and Stock Variation

Bill Wimberly in the army
Bill Wimberly in the army

Recipe and article by Bill Wimberly.

People tend to confuse stock with broth as they are at times interchangeable. The basic differences between the two lies in its properties. Chicken stock contains more gelée than chicken broth, uses a higher ratio of bone to flesh, and is reduced for a longer length of time (twice as long as a broth) to extract the gelée. Broth uses a higher ratio of flesh to bone and is reduced for a much shorter period of time. These are the key factors to consider in determining whether you are making chicken stock or chicken broth. Stock is more concentrated (longer reduction) and may be used for soup by the addition of water. Stock with its abundance of gelatin (containing minerals) is best suited for pan sauces, gravies, stews, and product thickened with roux.

Chicken broth is usually made with chicken meat and chicken parts, with a high flesh to bone ratio. Whole chicken (stewing hens are best for broth) or assorted parts can be used. Reduction time for chicken broth at sea level is about 3 hours.

Chicken stock is made mostly of chicken parts that have a very low flesh to bone ratio. Backs, necks and breast bones produce the best stock. To achieve the maximum extraction of gelée from the chicken bones the reduction time is 6 hours. Water, vegetables, herbs, and salt are ingredients that are common to both stock and broth.

Formulas (recipes) for the casual cook or homemaker are formatted differently than commercial or institutional formulas. Many casual cooks do not follow standard recipes, and this leads to inconsistent results. When I formulate a recipe for a commercial production facility or central kitchen, it is somewhat different than a recipe intended for the casual or recreational cook. Both formulations must be precise and easy to follow, and duplicate. Cost is very important in commercial institutions, and should also be a factor in your home kitchen. But do not skimp when cooking for your family, your goal here is to delight your guest, not make a profit.

The reader may notice that some of my chicken and stock recipes vary in ratio to bones, meat, herbs, seasonings and water. I submitted a standard recipe for chicken broth on a previous entry, and the above formulas were created for an organic restaurant company that produced institutional stocks and broth, as well as an organic soup line. Please feel free to adjust the formulas to your personal needs and taste. Remember, to have fun, and by all means, be creative.

For a vegan stock ,Alison Cole recommends Better Than  Boullion. We are looking for a great recipe for one though.

Dead Easy Dills – Kosher Style

Kosher Dills
Kosher Dills

These are those crisp pickles that snap in your mouth. Crunchy because they are uncooked, making them the hands-down easiest pickles you can make.

You need a saucepan, cheesecloth, jars, or a crock, and the ingredients. Maybe a funnel if you’re using jars. It takes about 15 minutes top to bottom if you use ice cubes instead of cold water.

I have a thing for alliteration, so could not resist putting dill in the title, but fennel is a nice alternative.

Aging them for 2 days makes them what is called “half-sour”, aging for 4 or more days is called: “full sour”.

Note that the longer you age the pickles, the more yeast will form on the top. Try to skim it off, as this will affect the pickle taste. It’s perfectly safe though and a natural part of the kosher pickle.

If the yeast weirds you out, then stop aging the pickles at two days.

Sadza/Isitshwala

Sadza is the Zimbabwean staple food. It is also a staple food in southern and east Africa. It is the same as ugali in Kenya, nsima in Malawi, fufu in Nigeria and papa in South Africa. Different types of meal can be used to make sadza/ isitshwala. Among these are: maize (corn) meal, sorghum meal and ground rice. Maize meal seems to be the most popular of these. This is a meal that most households will eat on daily basis and it is a rich source of carbohydrates. Serve with Curried Kale and Lindiwe’s Beef Stew.