Saturday, November 20, 2010

It is not quite Cherry Pie

Sigh! I am on the top rung of the ladder harvesting plump, juicy, deliciously looking cherries but NOT! All I can think about is that I wish these were cherries because then I would be popping those babies in my mouth and be enjoying them with red stained fingers. Instead, these beautiful fruits are olives. They are bitter off the tree. Sigh, sigh, sigh.........

Don't get me wrong, I have been excited since I saw the 3 olive trees on the grounds of our new home. Visions of bottles of olive oil and olives in my pantry filled my mind. It has been quite exciting these past few months, watching the olives getting color. First green, then a slight blush, then reddish, maroon and finally a deep almost grape color. I  research how to preserve olives and produce olive oil. Now, reality hits! Instant gratification is out of the question. A ready to eat olive takes a minimum of 2-3 months, maybe longer depending on what method you use. Hence, my love hate relationship with my olive trees. At the end of the long wait, I may have a batch of bad tasting olives.

After much research, I settled on processing my olives following the methods listed by UC Davies. They list water, brine and lye cure olives.  I have not been able to make myself use lye in curing the olives. My preference has been to water treat the olives followed by brine curing. The olives are slit to help release the bitter oleuropein. I was to change the water daily for 3 weeks. At the end of 3 weeks, they were still a bit bitter for my taste and turn a pale green, even those that started out reddish brown. I ended changing water daily for 5 weeks. I finished the cure by bottling them in a brine solution. I have found the finished olives to be too salty for my taste. Hence, I continue my experiments.  In my kitchen you will find containers filled with olives in various stages of curing and different brine strengths. I look at this year as a year to experiment and learn.
Ripe green and red brown olives
First batch of green ripe olives
Rinsing water cure olives
Water curing olives - colors fade
Water cure olives submerged in fresh water
Water cured olives after 3 weeks
3 bottles of water cured olives in finishing brine
second stage of experiment - brine curing olives
Brine curing olives
Deeper colored olives
Almost black colored olives
Wish it was a juicy cherry!
Or maybe a grape
Wash and drain olives
Submerged in water, changing daily
Okay, at this point my kitchen counter is lined with containers of olives in various stages of curing. I keep telling myself - enough, do not pick any more olives. After all, I do not know if they will even taste good. This year is a testing year for me. However, each time I go to Temecula, I look at the trees I cannot help picking those olives. There is some perverse satisfaction in picking them even if I cannot eat them out of hand. They feel wonderful in my hands. The olive trees look so beautiful.

Full of olives at black stage too high to pick
Black olives calling to me
Must not pick them!
Daily changing of the water was taking it toll especially when we had weekend plans. I lost a whole batch of water cured olives because I forgot to label the batch and thought it was a brine batch which only required monthly changing of brine. So my water cured olives fermented and had to be thrown away. That, I think cured me (no pun intended!) of picking more olives

A huge batch of water cured olives I had to throw away :(
My ever growing batches of olives 

Truthfully, there is still much olives still ripening on the trees that I might succumb to their siren call. Hopefully, I will get some good eating out of some of them at least. Next year.....olive oil?

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