When I used to have my store in McAllen, I advertised on the local channels with Time Warner cable. One year, my sales rep stopped by with a Christmas present: an olive tree. To this day, that was probably the most thoughtful vendor gift I have ever received. We planted it, and even though it is a lovely tree, we never really expected to harvest olives. But boy, was I wrong.
2014 was the 1st year that we harvested a crop from our Time Warner cable Olive tree. We had loads and loads of tiny Arbequina olives on our tree, and we spent a windy afternoon harvesting as many as we could.
Our ridiculous posse of ranch kitties hovered around the base of the tree as we picked. We kept tripping over them in the frenzy of blowing olive branches. Cats always seem to enjoy getting in the way.
That was in August 2014. I read a few online blogs and some old farmer cookbooks that I had as to how to prepare and brine olives. I had an old crock that held 5 gallons, so I selected that as my brining vessel. I washed the olives, prepared the salt brine.
Yes, I should be sharing a recipe here with you, but frankly I don’t believe that I am an olive brining expert yet. So if you decide to harvest your olive tree and brine the olives, I encourage you to do more research than what this blog offers.
I will say that our olives were very tiny (about the size of a blueberry), and I did not feel it was necessary to break the flesh with a mallet before brining. The flesh of these olives was rather thin, but very flavorful. The brine penetrated all the way to the large seed with no problem. A ballpark recipe is that my brine was a ratio of 1 gallon of water to 2 cups pickling salt, and I made 4 gallons of brine.
I loved this picture, until I realized that my husband was using a cat litter bucket to collect the olives. But hey, on the ranch, a bucket is a bucket.
Our cat Pocky thinks he’s hiding, since he can’t see us.
Olives float, so some engineering experimentation as to how to keep them submerged in needed. My friend Sandy who owns an olive farm recommended that I fill Ziploc bag with water, and use those as weights. In addition to being tiny, my olives were pretty stubborn, and kept popping around the sides of the bag to surface. I resolved the matter with a plastic colander that I borrowed from my salad spinner. I flipped the colander over, and placed the water filled Ziploc bag on top. The weight of the bag pushed the colander down into the brine, and the olives were pushed deep into the liquid. Snap!
Then I noticed a vertical crack in the crock, but I just couldn’t be bothered to change containers. With all the liquid, the crock weighed about 40 lbs. The crock was too heavy to lift. (You would think in a house full of muscle men, I could have commanded some help, but that is another story…) The crack crusted over with salt after about a week of brining, stopping the leak. Sometimes it pays to be lazy.
So there they sat, all through Christmas, next to our kitchen table, brining away. You would have thought that while our kids were home for the holidays I would have moved the crock off of our extra kitchen chair, but no. The crock enjoyed our guest chair on past the New Year.
There was a considerable layer of mold that collected on the top of the olives, but the online blogs said just to skim it off, then store the olives in the fridge. The mold was pretty solid, and skimmed off easily.
The olives really are delicious, although tiny. I would like to figure out how to make a nice tapenade, as we now have almost 2 gallons of olives in our fridge. Since the olives are about the size of a large caper, making a tapenade would be rather fiddly work. But, somewhere around tax time (which is coming up) this task may sound like an absolutely delightful distraction.
I am surprised I got such a clear shot of the olives, the wind was pretty fierce.
The finished product.