Olive Season – Pickled Olives Recipe – with lemon and chilli

Bismillah Rahman Ar-Raheem.

Olives are delicious and I have loved them since I can remember. In fact I am told one of my earliest words was “lo’live”. Always pestering my father for one (or usually more) when he was making lunch.

For me then, one of my favorite times of year here (Oct/November) is when the olives are swelling on the trees, and we get to harvest and prepare the fruit. In the desert these trees are relatively new because growing them depends on having water. But in the mountainous areas of the country many olive trees are grown and have been for centuries.

I also love the feeling of togetherness as the family all go together to harvest the olives, and then prepare them. The women of the hareem work & chat together, often the men in the family help too, the children play around. Then the picking, and later stages of preparation are all easy enough that most children can be allocated a task. Toddlers love the whole assembly line feeling of the activity and with a bit of effort (on the part of the adults) can usually be encouraged to join in constructively.

There are two points when the olives are harvested. Firstly when they are still green a small proportion is harvested and pickled. Then the rest are left on the trees until they are black. When ready these ripe black olives are harvested and taken to a community press and pressed into delicious olive oil. We get them home in large metal Jerry cans and one Jerry can usually lasts us (as a small family) well into Spring. You can also pickle the black olives but I have yet to meet a woman here who does this, so watch this space for that recipe when I am able to glean one.

The green pickled olives however, are my favorite and we usually enjoy them for breakfast with bread and olive oil, or as a late night snack with milky tea.

If you ever can get your hands on fresh green just picked olives this is a wonderful recipe to try and takes three weeks from start to finish:

WEEK ONE:

You will need:

  • Choose a large clean container to pickle the olives in. See picture.
  • This recipe is based on a large container as shown.
  • You will need enough olives to fill the container about 4-8 inches below the top of the container. Don’t overfill as you need room for lemons and chilli’s later.
  • Set up a place to work with a clean surface, something heavy (I use a brass pestle mortar but people here will use hammers, spanners, rocks, anything convenient).
  • Salt – 1 kg for the container shown.

Method:

  • Take an olive one at a time and hit with your heavy implement. If you get the strike too strong it will mush – don’t hit so hard. If you strike too lightly nothing will happen. Practice makes perfect here. The ideal is that the olive will split open but not be crushed. Some people also use a knife and cut to the stone a half circle end to end around the olive. This is neater but less satisfying and takes longer.
  • Put the split olive into your empty container.
  • Continue bashing until all olives have been split.
  • Wash the olives two times filling the container with water each time, working with your hands then tipping the water away (Muslims/ahs say “bismillah before tipping water away”).
  • Last time fill with water and a 1 kg bag of salt. Close and agitate.
  • Leave for 7 days. Every two days agitate/ shake a few times.

WEEK TWO:

You will need:

  • 1 kg salt
  • water

Method:

  • Tip away the water the olives have been sitting in for the seven days. If all is going well this water will look brownish, be a bit oily and smell of brine.
  • Sometimes you will get some white bacteria growth on the top of the water this is no problem. Just wash well.
  • Wash the olives two times filling the container with water each time, working with your hands then tipping the water away (Muslims/ahs say “bismillah before tipping water away”).
  • Last time fill with water and a 1 kg bag of salt. Close and agitate.
  • Leave for 7 days. Every two days agitate/ shake a few times.

WEEK THREE:

You will need:

  • 1/2 kg Salt.
  • Around 5-10 lemons – somewhat to taste
  • Around 10 green chilli’s – this can be left out if you don’t like chilli’s.

Method:

  • Tip away the water the olives have been sitting in. As week two.
  • Remove the olives from the container and put them in a large pan.
  • Squeeze about 1/2 to 2/3rds of the lemons onto the olives.
  • Add the salt.
  • Mix with your hands so evenly spread with the lemon and salt (make sure your hands are cut free)
  • Slice the remaining lemons so they are circles.
  • Add some of the olives – about 1-2 inches in the bottom of the container.
  • Then add a chilli or two plus a layer of the lemon slices.
  • Add some more olives and repeat making layers of olives followed by a layer of lemon and chilli until everything is used up and the container is full.
  • Fill with water again to the top.
  • Some people add a layer of olive oil on the top at this point but I have had better results without doing this.
  • Leave for 7 days. Every two days agitate/ shake a few times.
  • The olives should be ready for eating. If you try one and it is very firm and tart add some more salt and leave another few days.
  • If they are very, very soft you have added too much salt and I don’t think there is much you can do! But in any case they are probably still tasty enough!
  • The best result is a soft but retaining some firmness olive with flavours of lemon and chilli.
  • Serve into a little bowl and squeeze excess water from the olives. Then add olive oil and eat with bread. They can be served as a side to a main dish, or as breakfast or evening snack as you like!

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5 thoughts on “Olive Season – Pickled Olives Recipe – with lemon and chilli

    1. There are so many other wonderful veggies and goodies in India. We have olives and dates… : D. Town people here do lemons, whole green apricots (soo good), aubergines, carrots, cucumber and all sorts but I haven’t learnt how yet… Insha’Allah…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Insha’Allah… it’s a long story but the tree’s I was getting olives from the last few years are no longer accessible for me : (. I have one tree but it is not big enough yet… but I am hoping my husband will get some this year so I can make them. I will then eat lots up just for you : D.

      Liked by 1 person

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