Sunday, October 13, 2013

Scylla and Charybdis: Olives

This year's olive harvest was rather nice.  *Yes, my two little trees are named Scylla and Charybdis, because I planted them a little too close on a slope, so picking is somewhat treacherous. Last year almost the entire harvest was devoted to my mad attempt to press oil by hand. Warning: it can not be done. So this year I tried various cures. They have to be picked before they fully ripen or the bugs get them, though oddly that wasn't the case last year when I had some black salt cured olives too. Well, some were cured as I always do: just brine. Takes a year and a few changes of brine every few months. But they stay firm and vegetal. Far right is one tree's early harvest. The other I slashed, soaked in water and brined in Spanish fashion, which is the quickest way to do it. But the grand new experiment was using lye. LET me tell you; scary stuff. And not easy to find, try hardware stores but not Home Despot. Oh, and Red Devil is now apparently called Rooto. Evil warnings still appear on the label. The proportions in the cure were given to me by Megan Brown (see The Cult of Prepasteurian Food Preservation group on Facebook). I doubled her formula using 2 gallons of water and 8 tbs of lye at 70 degrees F. It covered the olives. After 12 hours I drained and repeated. USE GLOVES!! And goggles. Then rinse for 3-5 days with water draining and rerinsing 3 times a day. I was gone the past few days so it was more like a week. Then it went into strong brine. In one quart jar I added lemon peel, spices and chilies for kicks. They already taste good. A little soft, and I do prefer a bit of crunch, but still, so far a real success. Thanks Megan and everyone else in the Cult for the inspiration.