As of today, it’s been one month and two days since my virgin (or perhaps, extra virgin?) attempt at curing homegrown olives began. Four long, arduous weeks filled with impatience, saltwater, daily inspections and regrettably bitter taste tests.
For those of you who missed my original ‘olive harvest’ post, you can catch up on the details here. Roughly thirty days and four batches of brine later, I can gladly report that my little bullet-hard beauties are slowly progressing.
This morning, I sampled my second half-cured black olive. After four weeks, the shiny black fruit has progressed to a diluted shade of purple; the flesh has softened and the skin has taken on a smooth, almost-translucent appearance. In terms of flavour, the second taste test was drastically different to the first. The flesh has transitioned from hard and bitter to soft and sweet, with a whack of salt and fruity undertones.
After some consideration, I do feel that there’s too much salt in the overall flavour profile. After the brining process concludes, I may soak the fruit in clean, fresh water prior to dressing the batch in olive oil and herbs. However, for a first attempt, I’m quite happy.
When it comes to the green olives, well… they’re taking much longer to cure than the blackened fruit. I didn’t attempt a taste test today (due to experiencing a bitter assault to the palate last time around) but the fruit itself is still resistant to a gentle squeeze. Interestingly, the bright green fruit has lost much of its attractive vibrancy. The predominantly green olives are now tinged with dirty yellow. Their variegated friends are now a pallid shade of dappled purple. A bit sad, really.
My favourite part of the curing process has been the brine itself. It’s therapeutic to watch the hard salt crystals bubbling in water, dissolving into a steaming pool of clarity. When poured into the jars, the density of the brine causes the olives to float like little ovular life buoys, and after a few days, the brine starts to acquire the pigment from the soaking olive skins.
Soft yellow turns to dark, bleeding khaki. A pale blush of rose seeps further into bright crimson. Each day has been different, like an evolving art piece that’s enlivened by the sun. Beautiful. It’s been almost sad to wash the brine down the drain.
So, that’s my week four report. As a naive estimation, I feel that I’ve probably got another two weeks to wait for the black olives, and… perhaps four for the resistant green fruit? In the meantime, feel free to send me your favourite recipes for dressing olives (so far I’m thinking herbs, lemon rind, perhaps some crushed garlic… all topped up with some fruity olive oil).
*As an offside, I just stumbled across a recipe for Martini Soaked Olives at the Kitchn. Gorgeously boozy, simple and delicious. Bookmarked for when the green olives are ready. I’m excited.
Update: my finished, dressed olive post is available here. I now have five large jars of soft, juicy olives marinating in extra virgin oil, herbs, citrus rind and cracked spices. Definitely worth every minute.