My family have always had a love of olives. With fond memories, I recall my 3 year old counting the olives on our plates, to check she had not been short-changed her portion of olives! She’s now 21 and still loves them. As teens, our children could devour a bottle between them, a costly business! So after reading My Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater, we decided to create a piece of France in our own backyard. We bought 12 Manzanilla trees and carefully squeezed them between our already over-crowded backyard trees. It was easy then, as the olive saplings were but pinky-finger sized sticks. 5 years on, they are pretty big (they grow really fast here in New Zealand, with all our rain and soft soil) and we are having to decide which ones stay and which ones we will cull. Why? Because there is not much room for all the competing trees, and this year we have already collected a years supply of olives from just two of the trees! The ones that aren’t doing so well because of insufficient sunshine will have to go.
This is the 5th year of bottling olives, the first three years, we foraged for olives from other people’s trees (we have a commercial olive farmer nearby, and once he had done his first picking, he allowed us to pick from two rows of his 1000 trees! It was very special! He has a herd of alpacas living and grazing in his orchard, so we were accompanied by a curious baby alpaca, while the rest of the herd nervously hovered nearby to keep an eye on him. Precious memories.
We don’t have space for alpacas, but picking was done two weeks ago by Mike. He filled a huge bucket full of olives from just one tree. Those I bottled last night, and I will bottle the second batch next weekend. Bottling olives isn’t difficult, it just takes patience and time. Below is my recipe which works for me:
Curing and Bottling Olives
- Pick your olives.
- Cover the olives with water and leave them to soak for 24 hours.
- Rinse them and cover the olives with fresh water. Do this for a total of 2 weeks. The olives release a strong olivey smell and foam collects on the top. Don’t be alarmed. This is all quite normal.
- Once two weeks of soaking is up, it’s time to bottle the olives. Find enough bottles with tight fitting lids. Wash well in soapy water and rinse in hot water. I don’t sterilise mine but perhaps this is a good thing to do.
- Make your brine. I cup of sea salt to 10 cups water. Boil till the salt is dissolved and allow to cool.
- Into each of your bottles, place a selection of spices of your choice. My bottles are large, so I used 3 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, fennel seeds and a sprig of rosemary and origanum or dried herb. Then as I start to pack my clean rinsed olives in, I place 3 cloves of garlic, 3 slices of lime or 2 slices lemon and 1 or 2 fresh or dried chillies. You can decide which spices you would like to use.
- Once you have packed your glass jars almost to the top with olives, press them down so they sit firmly together, and add some Apple Cider Vinegar (I added 2 Tbspn) to each bottle. Then fill the bottle with cooled brine liquid, to cover the olives. Pour olive oil over to seal the olives (about 1 cm). Place the lid on top and store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 months.
- You can make your own olive labels to commemorate the date.
Last year I bottled so many olives, I was able to gift large bottles away. Once you eat your own olives, you will NEVER truly enjoy commercially produced olives again! Ce la vie! And don’t forget to prune your olive trees once you’ve picked the the olives! And the health benefits of eating olives, besides being delicious? Click here for 7 health benefits.