Have you ever think what happened before getting your perfect olive snack in your table?
Before olives have taken quite a journey, its adventure likely begins in the warm Spanish sun, swaying on a branch in the Mediterranean breeze.
Olives from Spain require a lot of warmth and sunlight, difficulty grow in colder climates. The rich, fertile soils of Andalusia in Spain is the perfect environment for olives to flourish, which is why they have been a staple of Spanish culture and cuisine for more than 2000 years.
Olives from Spain grow and ripen throughout the summer, usually becoming ready to pick between September and November. Then they are carefully harvested, hand-picked by workers carrying baskets around their necks to protect against bruising.
The small green or black fruit is a huge part of the country’s culture, from its starring role in traditional tapas to its position as an important economic driver in Spain’s agricultural sector.
But an Olive from Spain is not any given olive. To hit “table” standard, olives from Spain must have a small, smooth pit, average fat content, delicate taste, firm flesh and fine skin. Otherwise, it will be used to make olive oil, like the majority of its peers.
While people may think the colour of an olive denotes its variety, the colour only tells you when an olive was picked from the tree. The different types of olives are classified by the level of ripening when harvested. Green olives from Spain like the versatile Manzanilla and the super-sized Gordal are picked earlier in the ripening process, while black olives like the rich-tasting Hojiblanca are harvested later.
Olives are the only fruit that can’t be consumed directly from the tree because is too bitter to be eaten raw, so they must be processed before they get to your table.
To avoid damaging the fruit, olives are still picked manually one by one, this is why only about 10 per cent of the olives harvested are used as table olives. Only the best ones are good enough to become a table olive.
Curing olives, DIY.
Curing the olives is the traditional way of seasoning the olives, a very rooted process in Spain done differently depending on the area: in some places they use thyme and orange segments. To cure the olives, make a simple, straight cut into each one or poke each with a fork. And put them all in a jar full of water.
Opening the olive allows that stuff to dissolve into the water. That’s why you need to change the water once or twice a day to maximize the leaching process. Leave olives in water for 2 weeks, changing the water every day.
And then we brine. The brine, is a simple the combination of water, salt and vinegar. When the bitterness of the olives is gone, drain them and fill up the jar with the brine. They’ll be ready to eat after about a week.
The traditional process explained above takes place mostly in the producers’ countries as Spain, where farmers can collect the olives from the tree and make the curing process at their own house. Unfortunately, in UK this would not be possible so only travelling to Spain give you the opportunity to join the traditional seasoning.
But in any case, if you would like making your own dressing with olives, you can! Here a few steps: Take a jar of Spanish olives and mix it with the ingredients you like the most. Manchego cheese, paprika, chorizo, pine nuts, basil, etc. Add some olive oil and enjoy the taste of Spain. Easy ! Find below two examples of modern and delicious seasoning you can prepare in less than 5 minutes:
Black olives with Strawberries
Flavor: Sweet Style: Surprising Season: Spring Preparation time: 5 minutes
– Black olives – Strawberries
– Cauliflower – Tomato
– Pedro Ximénez vinegar – Olive oil extra virgin
Split the strawberries in four and cover with sugar until releasing the juice and be tender. Reserve the juice for the dressing. Remove very small sprouts from the cauliflower. Peel the tomato and use its pulp to make squares, keeping the seeds. In a bowl add the black olives, the strawberries, the cauliflower, the pulp of tomato and seeds.
Boil the juice of strawberries down together with the Pedro Ximénez vinegar. Let it cool and pour the olive oil extra virgin over the black olives. Done !
Gordal olives, goat cheese and honey
Flavor: Sweet Style: Elegant Season: Spring Preparation time: 4 minutes
– Gordal olives – Goat cheese
– Hazelnuts – Golden apple
– Honey – Lemon
– Fresh Thyme – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cut the cheese into pieces the size of a hazelnut. Peel the apple and make it in small squares. Immerse the whole mix in lemon juice. After all, toss in a bowl: the Gordal olives, the hazelnuts, the drained apple and the cheese and dress the blend with a trickle of honey, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Spread the thyme leaves and stir well. Let stand 20 minutes and we have another amazing seasoning recipe to surprise your guests.
Enjoy olives from Spain right now just opening a jar and letting your imagination fly.