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Olives

May 6, 2008

Well, for a real treat, this home-made bread tastes even better with olive oil. Bread and butter is lovely but if I had to choose one fat, above all others, it would have to olive oil. Olive oil has the advantage, excellent for Australia’s climate, of not needing refrigeration. It’s amazing that it’s taken so long for olives to become popular-ish here.

Last Sunday, I drove down to a local olive grove to help them pick their olives. Leccino and a small quantity of Frantoio – Tuscan varieties of oil olives. It was a great learning experience and just a fantastic thing to do in the autumn sunshine. Silvery green leaves, just beautiful – yes I’m obsessed with olives. Lots to learn but isn’t that always the way.

As a child I really disliked olives and olive oil. The imported oils were often heavy tasting and I suspect, not altogether fresh but that wasn’t it. Olives marked you out as non -Anglo….of course, being called Nada did that too; so although I couldn’t avoid my name, I could avoid olives. To add to the olive issue, on Palm Sunday, my observant Catholic mother would take olive branches (that someone had given her) to church, not palm branches, to be blessed. This is how they did it in the home country and in the home country, the only palm trees were on the Split foreshore and who was going to climb those!!! Now the olive branches were only a real problem, if we were going to our local parish church; at the Croatian church most people had them so it wasn’t an issue but all the kids cringed – “It’s PALM Sunday not OLIVE Sunday”. Over the years, people planted palm trees in their yards and so began to take those leaves in for the occasion instead. Olive branches are symbols of peace, as are palms in Judaism. Palms also symbolise triumph, victory and the tropical paradise thing too.

How this has come full circle – my mother is removing her palm trees to plant olives…..with some prodding from my sister and me. I’m on a planting mission. (I think I’m too angry to be on a peace mission!!! but maybe that’s what this is.) To fulfill my altogether selfish dream, however, I may need to find a nice piece of north facing slope somewhere and plant a small grove. Would that be a sufficient mea culpa for my prejudice?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2008 8:05 am

    Yes.

  2. May 7, 2008 10:37 am

    Oh yum, I am fairly obsessed with olives. And I hated them when I was young. That must have been really fun going and learning about that. I have had an olive tree for about four years and have managed one tiny black olive…I think I might be missing something?! Oh well, did you learn how to you extract the oil, and how many olives you need for such an enterprise??

  3. May 7, 2008 9:49 pm

    Anaglyph: Thanks for the dispensation.

    Helen: They had several varieties and “Pendolino” planted specifically as a pollinator. Maybe you need a pollinator for your olive or at least some friends.

    Sadly, they did not press the oil on site but took the fruit down to Camden/Picton where there is a pressing facility. Their grove is small and only 5yrs old so their yields aren’t huge. They got about 1000kgs of fruit which will produce anywhere from 100 – 250 litres of extra virgin oil. Once it is pressed, it is left to settle (any sediment falling to the bottom) and then decanted. It can be filtered (allows for longer storage) or unfiltered which IMHO has more flavour. The thing is that the oil is best when fresh. If stored well is can be still be good after a couple of years, but ideally the fresher the better.

    Olive trees are known for their longevity, so trees produce for a long time.

  4. May 8, 2008 8:26 pm

    It was fun buying fresh olives a while ago and trying a couple of techniques for making them edible – a fresh water soaking method, and a pure salt method, pre-marination. We got to eat a few, but too soon, and damn it, we had to leave the country before we’d even approached refining the process =^(

  5. May 15, 2008 11:52 pm

    JR – Yes to refine the process. I haven’t pickled any for about 2yrs……it is on my list of never ending things to do/learn. Not that I’m complaining.

  6. June 30, 2008 6:10 am

    Lots of children don’t like olives because of their strong flavour, but my brothers and I ate (pickled) olives insatiably. I wonder if this was because my mother never added salt to anything and we weren’t allowed to eat junk food. Maybe we were just eating them for the salt. I’m not saying we needed the salt – we ate packaged bread – but olives were our salty junk food!?

  7. July 4, 2008 12:21 am

    Even now, there are olives which are poorly brined or even caustic tasting that I can’t eat, so I think that could have had something to do with it.

    But you are right, the taste is strong and takes some getting used to. You obviously had finer tastes, no doubt due to the lack of junk food, to appreciate the olive!

    My uncle used to say ” you don’t know what’s good for you, young lady” when it came to olives and he was right!

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