It has been four months since Chuck and I spent an afternoon at Hillcrest Ranch learning how to harvest and brine olives. Since then, our two jars of mission and picholine olives have been sitting in the laundry room closet on a shelf behind the vacuum cleaner. Why the laundry room? Well, at the time of the harvesting we were instructed to put the jars in a cool, dark place and check on them once a week so I figured the laundry room closet was a cool, dark place that I would visit every weekend when we did that necessary evil called “clean the house”. For the most part, my strategy worked except for the couple of times we had weekend house guests or decided the dust bunnies had not yet grown large enough to warrant the effort.
Right before Valentine’s Day, we extracted one jar and decided to see if our little green fruits had given up enough of their tannins to become edible yet. You see, olives are a bit unusual in that you don’t want to eat them fresh. The tannins make them too bitter to taste good. It is only with brining or curing them with lye that they lose the tannins and become palatable.
We drained out one jar and then let them sit in a bath of clean water for a couple of hours to reduce some of the saltiness. The other jar is still nestled in the laundry closet as we figured we wouldn’t consume THAT many olives in the next couple of weeks so we might as well leave them for now. It certainly won’t hurt them to brine a little longer.
Chuck was the first to give the brined olives a taste. I must admit, I was a little cautious as I didn’t want a mouth full of bitterness if they weren’t quite ready. But once Chuck reported that they were no longer bitter, it was time to move on to stage two – marinating.
We had a couple of cups of olives from the single jar so we split them into two recipes. Half we made into Rosemary Lemon Olives and the other half we marinated with a blend of herbs and vinegar. Made with fresh rosemary, a fresh Meyer lemon and fresh garlic all from the back yard garden, the Rosemary Lemon Olives were my favorite, as can be substantiated by the fact that they are now all gone! And I know exactly what recipe the remaining jar of brined olives has in store for its future.
We considered our little olive experiment such a success that we spent this past weekend pruning and thinning the backyard olive tree so that it will yield harvest-able olives in the fall. Planted about 30 years ago by the previous owner, that tree had been trimmed into a round, dense ball of foliage into which the sparrows have been known to fly in and nest not to be seen again until they flew out with their chicks. In fact, while I was up on the ladder and pruning on Saturday, a VERY startled sparrow flew into the tree right by my head, took one look and did as quick a retreat as he could. Surprise! From now on you are going to have to share that olive tree with me, little birdie. 😉
Rosemary Lemon Olives
- One cup brine-cured small fresh ripe olives
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Two cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 small Meyer lemon, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
- In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden. Remove saucepan from heat; let stand until cool.
- Stir drained olives into garlic oil along with lemon pieces and rosemary. Transfer into small jar. Cover and refrigerate at least overnight to allow flavors to permeate. Return olives to room temperature before serving.