NOW I like a nice posh olive and always enjoy them in restaurants but I seldom buy them these days. I know, as a foodie, I should but I love marinating olives to fill quiet moments in the kitchen. OK, they may not be as good as fancy kalamatas or whatever but they finish up a lot better than they started. And cheaper.
I first got the idea from Michael Peano when he ran Restaurant Peano in Barnsley (he probably used more superior olives to start with) and I seem to remember Wayne Bosworth at Rafters doing it. He certainly preserved little goats cheeses. In my olive buying days I used to admire the lovely displays when Nonna’s had its deli in Hickmott Road. I’d see olives marinated with little strips of orange or lemon peel and think ‘I can do that.’ And as I did it more and more I bought them less and less. I am sure some of my regular foodie blogging chums will be horrified!
If you fancy having a go, this is what you do. I usually buy jars or tins of brined pitted green olives pitted black ones from the supermarket, drained but not washed so you don’t lose the saltiness. I mix them together in a bowl and pour over a little olive oil (not virgin) then whatever herbs and spices take my fancy. This last time there were chopped rosemary, thyme and chives from the garden, plus black and pink peppercorns, coriander, garlic and twists of peel. Sometimes I add chilli. The oil helps the herbs stick.
Sterilise enough jars and pour a little more plain olive oil in the bottom to avoid air pockets. Then add the olives. When the jars are half full poke a bay leaf or rosemary sprig down the side and fill to the top. Add enough oil to cover and seal. If you have any leftover olives they can be eaten immediately. The jarred olives are ready after about a week.
Then, when you have finished all the olives, strain off the oil which will by now be considerably improved and use it for cooking or in a salad dressing: a case of two things for the price of one.
Provided you sterilise properly and don’t use your fingers but a spoon the olives should not spoil. I’ve only had a couple of occasions when the contents have gone a bilious green. And don’t store them in the fridge because the oil can solidify. Do make sure the olives are always covered in oil.
It’s fun. It’s cheap. You can experiment. I’m thinking of marinating olives in Chinese or Indian spices. And stuffing them with anchovies. Once you start you can’t stop!