|An old olive tree in Tavira|
|Romans enjoyed the fruits of harvest from this 2000-year old tree!|
|Greek-style, dry salt-cured olives in progress|
Another simplification of processing for me was a the discovery of a special tool for cutting olives. Many water-extraction methods require a few cuts to be made in the olives to facilitate the extraction of oleuropein, the bitter agent in the fruit.
But years of using keyboards and vibrating power tools have caused considerable nerve damage to my hands, so that a few minutes of cutting fruit with a knife lead to excruciating pain. But the end justified the pain I thought. Then, as I was preparing my third annual lot of olives in the kitchen, the doutora asked why I didn't just use an olive cutter, because that would be easier on my hands. A what? I asked.
Indeed. This sped up processing enormously, reduced the mess and almost eliminated the pain. And all the time I could have had one from a local drogeria for a few euros.
This year I started so many pickled olives that I had to take some liters of them along on holiday and finish them off to take home afterward.
The doutora is less fond of traditional olives than I am, and when she saw recently that I had raided a few more kilos from an abandoned orchard near my office, she wrinkled her nose and asked why I didn't make sweet olives instead. What are those? I responded. Some years ago in Greece she had bought a jar of sweet olives and rather liked them, but she had been unable to find anything like that since then, because there is no such thing in traditional Portuguese food culture.
Nor in any other culture with a description of the process in a language I can read. A few recipes using brined olives to make unusual bar treats in California, but nothing for making a sweet preserve from raw olives. So I turned to a Greek colleague, who supplied me with a Greek description off the Internet of how to make sweet olives and sweet olive jam.
I published my initial adaptation of the process on Translation Tribulations, but since then I have discovered that the days of water extraction for the olives can be skipped. Sweet olives made with fresh, black-ripe olives had only a slight trace of bitterness; looking at the chemical structure of oleuropein, it seems not unlikely that a total of forty minutes boiling time oxidizes that substance, reducing or eliminating the bitterness of the fruit.
|Sweet olives on fresh sheep cheese for breakfast|