Sunday, January 30, 2011
Food I'm Eating: The Olive Project (January 2011)
At the other extreme is the method involving lye. Essentially, lye accelerates the result that water achieves--removal of the bitter components (mostly phenolic compounds and the glycoside oleuropein, according to Wikipedia). Somehow lye seems as unromantic as plain water, though--and dangerous to boot--so I rejected that idea. The other two methods rely on salt. Fresh olives can be simply packed dry in salt for long periods or they can be soaked in brine. As this last method seemed easiest, I opted to try brine-curing the small black olives the tree in the garden produces.
After picking several pounds of olives, I went back to the Internet and more carefully read the directions I'd found for making brine-cured olives. I was a bit annoyed at myself when I read that the skin of each olive must be broken. I wouldn't have picked so many if I had imagined making an incision in the side of each of the 800 small olives I had to process, but it turned out to be relatively easy work, taking only about an hour.
I made a brine solution of 1/4 cup salt to one quart of water and dumped it over the olives, which I had washed once (enough brine to ensure that all the olives were submerged). I covered the container and set it aside. Yesterday, after three days (stirring the solution and the olives once a day), the cover suddenly popped off. The olives had started fermenting. I hadn't read anything about fermentation or allowing gases to escape, so I assumed fermentation was not a good thing and added more salt in the hope of stopping it. Reading more today, I see that it's normal and the container is not supposed to be tightly sealed. In any case, the fermentation seems to have slowed. There is less bubbling going on. I'm not sure that has anything to do with the extra salt or not. I have no idea whether the water is now too salty, but I'll be changing it in a couple of days anyway. My recipe says that curing the olives will take about six weeks (with the brine renewed once a week). Already the olives are more palatable than they were fresh, so, I'm optimistic. Now, it's just a waiting game..... Stay tuned.
[Update: The Olive Project--Continued]