When handling the olives, be very careful not to bruise or damage them. I find that the best olive varities for this recipe are picual, verdale or kalamata. Spanish queens do not work as well as they turn out very sweet.
The olives for this recipe are picked, preferably from your own tree, when the fruit is deep purple and still firm.
- 10 kg extra-ripe black olives, with the option to cut a few slits in each one before salting
- 1 kg table salt
- 4 tbsp dried oregano
- 5 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 tbsp fennel flowers
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
This recipe needs to be started 10 days in advance.
For this recipe, you will need a 10-litre plastic container and a 10-kg weight (about 4 bricks).
1. Place the olives in the 10 litre plastic container, cover with the salt and mix well. Cover with a plate or wooden tray and place a 10-kg weight on top. Leave for 5 days, agitating the brine each day.
2. After 5 days, transfer the olives to a container with holes in the bottom, such as a large colander, and set it over the kitchen or laundry sink. Place the plate or trays and weight on top again and leave for a further 5 days, allowing the brine to drain freely.
3. After 5 days, depending on the size of the olives, the should be starting to taste sweet and not too salty. To find out, just taste; if they are still too bitter for your palate, leave over the sink for another day or two and continue to agitate.
4. Once the olives are to your taste, rinse the excess salt off briefly with fresh water, then dry thoroughly (they will be quite shrivelled). Place the olives on baking trays (there is no need to grease or line them) and dry out briefly in a very low oven (120°C fan-forced) for 10–15 minutes. If the sun is out, they can be dried on trays in the sun for a few hours.
5. After drying, mix the olives with oregano, garlic and fennel and place them in clean jars, then completely
cover with olive oil. Preserving them this way, they tend to absorb the oil after a period of time and can taste quite heavy. If you prefer a lighter taste, place them in a container and splash over some olive oil. Store the container in the fridge and occasionally agitate the olives to keep them coated with oil.
6. My preferred method is to simply place them in a vacuum-sealed bag with approximately 2 tablespoons of oil. Once vacuum sealed, they will keep in the bottom of the fridge for up to 1 year (unless eaten before then!) Or, once dry, simply bung them in the freezer and defrost them as required, then add oregano, garlic and a little extra-virgin olive oil before serving.
Recipe from Preserving the Italian Way by Pietro Demaio, Published by Plum, RRP $39.99, Photography by Chris Middleton.