Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Olive Project: Weeks 1-2

There is this great chain of Italian markets in the far western suburbs of Chicago called Caputo's. It's THE place to go for all things Italian, Boar's Head meats, deli goodies and great produce inexpensively. For me, one of the best parts of Caputo's is that you can find quantity of items you don't find in a regular market. Last year, I bought a flat of figs and made Ginger Fig Jam that was adored by anyone whom had it pass their lips. I saw fresh olives then too, but was unsure how to brine them so I only bought a few handfuls and put them in a vintage pottery bowl. The looked pretty cool at least.

A few weeks ago, it's probably overdue by now, I cam across Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It at the library. When the book first came and hit the shelves at Williams-Sonoma, I was sure that I needed to have it. Upon further inspection, I realized I had done many of the projects in the book already and couldn't spare the shelf space. However, never one to pass up a cookbook free for the borrowing I checked it out, and brought it home to read in depth and take a few "notes" before returning it. (who wouldn't want to make HOMEMADE pop tarts?)

This year, when fresh olives came into season, I was prepared and went to Caputo's in search of quantity.

I had hoped for both green and black but the green were out of stock. I picked up three pounds with plans to go back for green. Of course, I have yet to make it back and am afraid, I may be too late. I am not sure of the variety but as you can see in the photo, they are what I would consider colossal. Some of them even looked a bit like plums.

The olives need to be cut, top to bottom, as the pit runs with a sharp knife. The brining, obviously just amounts to dissolving kosher salt and water, and submerging the olives.

Here they are in one of my favorite, great big bowls. It's a good thing I like it since it'll be sitting on the counter for six weeks. (I wish I could think of somewhere else to put it.) I set two supper-sized glass plates on top to keep them submerged. This allowed me to check them out like water mammals at the zoo, that is until the water clouded and scum started to form. No cause for alarm, this is a natural part of the process though and in truth isn't as gross as it sounds or looks for that matter.

Here they are at one week. At first they started to get that rosy hue jarred black olives have, then they started to get mottled. They look like I added some bleach to the water and are really quite ugly. They are beginning to smell like brined black olives though - beauty is only skin deep? in the eye of the beholder? - that remains to be seen.

I have 4 more weeks to wait at which time, I plan to jar them with a bit of brine and olive oil and flavor them a few different ways - chili pepper, lemon rind, garlic and so on.

I'll keep you posted as this project progresses. If we're lucky we'll have one hell of an antipasti party.

I'll send you an invite!

1 comment:

Georgine said...

I think brining your own olives may even be cooler than making your own mustard. But maybe not as delicious as making your own bacon. What a pickle, deciding why you are cool? I guess it is just good to know you are cool.