Monday, March 7, 2011

Olives - Oil Cured vs Brined

Yesil zeytin 1Image via Wikipedia
Growing up, I hated olives. With a passion. The only olive I liked was my Great Aunt Olive. (She brought me cool Beatrix Potter stuff from England. I also would have appreciated Olive, The Other Reindeer, but she wasn't around.)

The only olives my New England Yankee/Polish Immigrant family knew were the canned black variety that resembled (and tasted like) rubber washers.... or the equally offensive green kind stuffed with red pieces of something-or-other. Every holiday, I passed the obligatory olive/gherkin dish around and prayed the smell wouldn't make me hurl.

Enter my Turkish mother-in-law.

Kahvalti (Turkish breakfast) was her thing. She made homemade cheese (don't even ask how that smelled), blended her own teas, and insisted I try the olives. Wrinkly, shiny, weird-as-hell looking salt cured olives. With pits even! Of course, my DH just laughed at me when I objected.

Fast forward many years and I've made my peace with olives. Seems not all of them taste like rubber. :) In fact, sometimes you'll see me standing at the chichi olive bar choosing between a dozen varieties.

Here are some pointers I used to get myself past the can/jar.
    
    via Tulumba.com
    
  • I stay away from the bitter green varieties because the curing process usually involves lye. They say it all gets rinsed away, but I like to play it safe. (Yes, lye from the cleaning aisle. Yuck! And yet, before I knew this, I did eat green olives...)
  • Black, oil-cured olives are salty and wrinkly. They have the strongest flavor (which I actually like these days) and don't keep very long. I only buy small batches. There's nothing I hate more than a mushy olive. *shivers*
  • Brined olives are cured in salty water for a few weeks. A good example is a Kalamata. These generally have the most fruit on the pit, no matter what size you choose. They're the most versatile.
  • Marinated - in vinegar and olive oil, sometimes with garlic and herbs. These can get too funky for me, but sometimes I'll find a nice one. I like when they toss in some big capers. Those are yummy.
An olive bar usually features olives from various locations and varieties (ie France for the petite picholine, Greece for kalamata, etc.), and producers who like to have fun with the marinades. A good deli will let you try before you buy.

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21 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

ha! I've always liked olives, in fact LOVED them since before I can remember. I even eat them when they're a bit mushy ;o) lol

Matthew Rush said...

Have you ever had a Muffaletta? It's olive heaven.

Katie Mills said...

I, like you, hated olives growing up. My parents always bought the green kind stuffed with red peppers but they were too bitter and vinegary for my taste. Since living in France though, I LOVE olives. Especially pitless green ones in brine. I'll have greek olives on pizza or in summer salads too. Funny how growing up and experimenting changes things.

Sarah said...

I was the same way! I hated olives until I reached adulthood. Oddly, my children love them. I like green olives but not black. I love posts like this!

Jacqueline Howett said...

Being half Greek, olives were always in our home. On our vactions from England to Greece to visit my Yaya who lived in a olive grove, we got stuck with the chore of slitting each olive with a knife for selling to market. I too hated olives until I grew up. Its a connection thing I think to family.

Old Kitty said...

I also used to detest olives but now I love em and eat them till I'm all olived out!!!! I used to live near a Greek shop that sold fresh olives - all sorts - big, green, black, pitted, brined, olive oiled.. oh heaven!!!!!

What a fabuolous post on olives - yay for your your mum in law!!! take care
x

Old Kitty said...

p.s. I just noticed I mis-spelled fabulous!! Sorry!! x

Jules said...

Your description of black olives is dead on, black washers. I however, love olives, especially the ones in the bottom of my martini glass :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Hart Johnson said...

I love ALL olives (though I will think twice about that lye thing)... when I was a kid, after I'd help put things on the holiday table, I would put a black olice on every finger... that was my favorite holiday detail until my mom told me at about 10 that I was too old and I passed the privilege on to my cousins. I REALLY though, prefer the better kind... I love kalamata olives, but pretty much love all sorts...

KO: The Insect Collector said...

Wow- a real olive primer! I love it.
I just realized your tiny pic is the eye of Fatima. Duh. I can't believe it took me this long to realize that!

LTM said...

sounds like we had a similar olive experience, although I always liked black olives--they were a staple of my Italian cooking back when I cooked. Now JRM likes to use green olives in his cooking, and I've started to give them more of a second chance...

the fantastic thing about growing up in so-La. is they use everything in everything and it's ALL GOOD. I'm not lyin. Yes, as Matt said, even the muffelettas... :o) xoxo <3

The Golden Eagle said...

Interesting post!

I like olives--they're not my favorite, but I do enjoy them in small quantities. :)

Colene Murphy said...

This is so weird, my mom loves olives which I never got...but yesterday she was raving about the garlic ones she just recently fell in love with. I could never get over the mushy rubbery ones, so never tried anything better. Might have to wither everyone going olive crazy! ;)

Aisha said...

I thought I was the only one! I HATED olives- depised them, would ask any dish made that had olives to be sans olive until I went to Turkey and had the Turkish breakfast- it was there I fell head over heel in love with olives. Glad to see I wasn't alone :)

walk2write said...

Shame on those olive merchants here in the States who kept at least two generations of potential olive lovers from reaching their potential. Like Hart Johnson, as a kid I thought the only thing olives were good for was decorating my fingertips.

You have a fascinating blog. I think I'm going to love it here!

Patti said...

I used to hate avocados, but now I love them. Unfortunately my dislike of olives has remained. I even tried some last year again just to make sure.

Clarissa Draper said...

I didn't know they used lye! Wow, I'm going to have to think twice about eating so many. I love them.

amesababble said...

I love the olive bar at our local Wegmans...lots of variety. Sometimes I am in the mood for a cerignola and other times I will get some kalamata, or other spicy ones. Great to snack on while preparing dinner --glass of wine in hand. Interesting post!

Deniz Bevan said...

Mmm, I love olives... Boy, I wish I was eating a Turkish breakfast right now! I'd even like to try making my own cheese someday.
Gherkins on the other hand - can't stand those things. Give me a dill pickle any day [g]

lotusgirl said...

Great post. This is something I've been working on lately. I wish I were better at it.

Holly Ruggiero said...

I loved the black mission olives growing up. Now, I love them all. I've even been to an olive tasting...yummy.

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