Last year, our olive trees bore an enormous crop; this year, not so much this year. Olives tend to be alternate bearing, meaning that they bear heavily one year, and very lightly the following year. Luckily, they don’t all follow the same schedule, so this time of year is a good one to get your hands on some olives and begin this lengthy process. Worth the wait for delicious results!
For this Kalamata style olive, we used a combination method of a water brine and a salt brine method, sourcing information from websites such as Nourished Kitchen curated by the author of The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle Featuring Bone Broths, Fermented Vegetables, Grass-Fed Meats, Wholesome Fats, Raw Dairy, and Kombuchas and The Spruce. The water brine method, Mc Gruther tells us at the Nourished Kitchen, results in an increased amount of oleuropein, an antioxidant thought to boost the immune system. Oleuropein is also the source of the incredibly bitter flavor of unripe olives, another instance of the tendency for bitter flavors to be beneficial in small doses. Curing neutralizes this compound somewhat, retaining a small amount of balancing bitterness while creating a salty, flavorful olive. Kalamata olives are the most commonly known water-cured olives, made from fresh red-brown or black-ripe stage.
While olives can be harvested at all stages of ripeness (green olives are just unripe black olives, although some varieties are better at the green stage than the black, and vice-versa) this recipe calls for the olives to be harvested at the red-brown or black-ripe stage—just about now, in other words, as most trees in our area have already passed the green-ripe stage.
Once the fermentation has finished, a process of several weeks or even months, the olives are then placed in a vinegar brine, sometimes with added oils and spices. There are a lot of ways to customize the flavor once the flavor is complete, tailoring the spice blend to suit your individual preference. A large batch of cured olives can also be broken down into smaller batches after fermentation to experiment with different flavors. Lemon, oregano, thyme, red pepper, and garlic are all excellent flavors to incorporate into your olive brine. Let your taste buds guide you!
The salt brine here closely resembles the ratio of salt in seawater-and no wonder! In ancient times, a mesh bag containing olives might have been lowered into the ocean and left to marinate there. I like to imagine the gray-green olive trees swaying on yellow hills, while their fruit steeps in the salty green sea below.
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