Kalamata olives

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We have a Kalamata tree in the backyard that’s about 15 years old. Each year it gives us a good crop of olives without too much effort. If we don’t water or fertilise it, we still get a good crop. This year we had a huge crop and interestingly I don’t think it was due to the long wet summer because the tree by spring was absolutely loaded with thousands of babies. It was clear in spring that it was going to be a bumper crop. Last winter was quite warm and maybe that had something to do with it.

Olives are a declared weed in South Australia under the Natural Resources Management Act. They grow in many Adelaide parks and conservation areas freely. These wild olives can be collected for pickling or making oil, just make sure they haven’t been poisoned by some well meaning land care group. There are literally thousands of wild olive trees loaded with fruit right now ready for picking. Cultivated olives aren’t too much of a problem as long as all the olives are collected. This minimises it’s spread into the hills by the birds. Although I think the cat is well out of the bag on that front.

I’ve been collecting a bucket from our tree a week or two apart. I’m already up to my fourth 10 litre bucket and will probably get another two or three buckets. In hindsight, this has been a very good experiment to find the ideal time to harvest the olives for flavour and texture. I didn’t mean for it to be an experiment, I’ve just been super busy and that’s how it’s worked out. I hear the best time to pick is when the tree is 80% has turned black and 20% is still green. Then you go back when the last 20% has turned black and do the rest. When Kalamata are picked too late they go soft and aren’t as nice.

This year I am doing some Zen processing of the olives – which pretty much means I’ll find a way to process them in the limited time I’ve got however that unfolds. First, I am soaking them in a 10% salt and water mix for about a week or two then straining. Then preparing a fresh batch of the 10% brine to soak for another week or so. I’ll keep doing this until they taste ok. Then when they’re ready I’ll store in a brine using my mother in laws recipe.

100 g salt per litre of water

20ml red wine vinegar per litre of water

Top jar with olive oil

When ready to eat open jar and keep in fridge, you can add oil, spices, herbs and garlic – whatever you have on hand in the garden.

It’s also nice to hot roast the olives with wild fennel seeds, orange peel and olive oil. Serve warm.

 

 

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Fig jam

fig

It’s fig season and they’re delicious fresh and in salads and deserts. Our neighbour on one side has two massive trees and we usually get some given to us. They prune them very hard and while they are quite old they aren’t much taller than a person but are very wide. This makes for easy harvesting of the fruit and easy netting. The neighbour on the other side also has two fig trees. The big one is quite tall and the birds tend to get most of those fruit as its really hard to pick from it. The small one is growing over our side of the fence and the fruit is delicious. As well as drying the fruit to preserve, it also makes a lovely jam.

1 kilo figs, peeled and quartered

200 grams sugar

4 tablespoons water

Select figs that are just ripe and are firm. Peel and quarter the figs. Prepare a syrup with the sugar and the water. Add the figs to the boiling syrup and cook on medium heat until gelling stage is reached. Put into sterilised jars and seal the lids. Boil jars for 10 minutes to preserve.

Sterilising jars

Preserving most things requires some sort of sterilised storage jar. I bought most of my big jars by scouring the op shops and Gumtree. I looked for old fowlers jars and found heaps. Up until 30-40 years ago every household had a set. Most households were used to preserving their own food and were well equipped. The fowlers jars are tough and purpose built for the job. Replaceable rubber seals and lids can be found at any Mitre 10. I also keep jars I’ve finished from things I’ve bought from the shops – eg passata bottles. Just check that the seals are still intact and not split and don’t have any mold on them. New screw cap lids and jars can be bought from places like Globe Importers or Imma and Mario’s Mercato.

Sterilising jars

Get your jars and clean them as well as you can. I run them through the dishwasher with dish washing powder. Washing in the sink is fine too. Leave on a clean tea towel to dry but don’t wipe the jar dry with the towel. Put them on a tray and put in a preheated 180C oven for 10 mins. Take them out carefully and place on a clean tea towel on your bench or table. They are now ready to fill.

Sterilising lids

While the jars are in the oven sterilise the lids at the same time. Boil the kettle and put a shallow pan on the stove on high. Add the boiled water then add the lids and rubber rings of your are using them in the boiling water for 10 mins. Take out and place on the dry tea towel, they are now ready to use.