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The Olivesmith at Olive Time

September 09, 1993|MICHELLE HUNEVEN

Sunday night, everyone goes home. "But they all come back," says Garro, "five to six weeks later--with jars. They want olives. They don't forget, either."

The last Olive Time, Garro and friends processed almost 600 pounds of olives.

"We make sure that all of us have olives," says Garro. "We missed the Olive Time one year and everyone was really sad. A year without olives is just not the same."

* After reading Angelo Garro's recipes, it's likely you'll start seeing olive trees everywhere--in your neighbor's back yard, along two-lane blacktops, in parks, along trails. Be sure and ask permission before you pick. Sometimes olives will even show up, fresh-picked and ripe, at a farmers market. Expect them mid- to late October.

* WATER-CURED OLIVES

Take 2 1/2 gallons of beautiful, absolutely fresh, crunchy green olives. Crack each olive with a stone. Put them in a 5-gallon plastic container and cover thoroughly with water. Put a plate and a rock on top of them--otherwise the olives will float. Change the water every day. Don't feel too guilty if you miss a day here or there. After 3 1/2 to 4 weeks, taste the olives to see if all the bitterness has leached out. Dry olives overnight spread out on the top of a table, then put them in a big mixing bowl.

Chop 2 big bunches of mint. Peel and finely chop 2 heads of garlic. Mix this into the olives. Add 3 cups of extra-virgin olive oil, 1 cup of good wine vinegar and salt to taste. Leave the olives in the bowl and stir them every day for 3 to 4 days. Then, put them into jars and cover them thoroughly with olive oil. Store these olives in the refrigerator, but serve at room temperature. They should be eaten within 2 months.

* BRINE-CURED OLIVES

Take 2 1/2 gallons of fresh olives just as they're turning from green to red. Make a solution of salt water to cover--2 gallons of water per 1 pound of salt--in a crock. Or, you can put a raw egg (still in its shell) in a pail of water and add salt until the egg floats to the surface; then you'll have the right amount of salt. Make certain that the olives are completely submerged in this brine. Place a plate weighted with a rock on top to discourage them from floating.

Once the olives are in the brine, go out and pick the stems and branches of wild fennel. Chop the fennel and add to the brine.

After a month or so, when you have time, go to a farmers market and buy some good hot fresh peppers, red and green. Add 2 to 4 peppers per 5-gallon crock--10 if you really like heat.

After 2 months, add 10 heads of garlic, the individual cloves peeled.

After 4 months, change the water and taste the olives. If they are really bitter, reduce the salt amount by 1/3.

After 6 months, change the water again. This time, the water should be just a little bit salty, "palatably salty," Garro says. More salt will leach out of the olives themselves. Leave the olives in this brine to be consumed as you go along. These olives will last up to a year and a half.

* SALT-CURED

"GREEK" OLIVES

Use 2 1/2 to 3 gallons fresh ripe black olives. Pierce each olive with a fork. In a Chinese laundry basket or any unvarnished cylindrical basket approximately 20 inches tall, make layers of rock salt and olives. Set the basket on a brick placed in a plastic tub, to catch the juice. Weight the olives with a plate and a big, heavy rock. Every 3 days, empty the olives out and, using the same salt and the same basket, repack them. You may need to add more salt from time to time. This is done so mold does not develop. After 3 to 4 weeks, when all the bitterness has leached out of them, wash the olives and dry them out very well.

In a large frying pan, mix 1 cup of oil, 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, 1 3/4 cup finely slivered orange peel, a few squeezes of orange juice, 3 to 4 tablespoons of wine vinegar and 2 to 3 heads of garlic, peeled and finely chopped. Add the olives and heat them up until you can hear the oil snapping. Stir for just a few minutes until everything is warmed and well coated. Empty the contents of the frying pan into a large ceramic crock, cover with olive oil and stir every 3 or 4 days. It's a good idea to keep these olives refrigerated, but be sure to serve at room temperature.

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