Olive Bar 3
Originally uploaded by jslander
Olives are supposedly “the” new burgeoning niche market! Since we use copious amounts of Olive Oil in soapmaking, this new trend is certainly right up my alley. Just like the rise of coffee, chocolate, cheese and niche breweries, Olives are making their rise as a gourmands new best friend. Olives are following suite in the specialty varietals with exotic varietals like Gaeta, Picholine and Arbequina.
The new rage is to put out olives and drinks at parties and just skip the chips’n’dip or cheese and crackers. It’s still salt but it’s healthy fats and generally, the specialty olive sales supports smaller farms than the big agri-business that is Doritos and Lays.
Olives are confusing. Many olives share their names with the regions that they grow in, similar to coffee. And, like wine, olive varietals can be transplanted to different regions, yielding varying tastes from the same olive strain. Like any high priced product, there are fakes. If you see Kalamta Olives for way below market prices, they probably are doctored up with cheaper varieties, such as “The TG.” With a name like Turkish Gremlik though, it seems a shame to not savor this lessor known olive just for the creative name.
Ripe olives have a coloring of dark purple to jet black. All olives start green and firm. They change color and texture as they ripen. Interestingly, on the way to purple, the young green olives turn blond as they age. Despite their bland color, their texture and taste is anything but boring. These mid-aging blond olives are known to have a delightful flinty or mineral quality and should not be missed.
Olives need to be aged. In their natural state they taste bitter but all of the bitterness can be taken out with a lye bath (soaping connection!). This takes out the bitterness within a few days but often takes out flavor right along with it. A better, more boutique way of enhancing flavor during the cure time is with a salty brine. While this process is not fail proof, it does make a better end product but takes time and effort. The olives must age for months, with water changes and careful monitoring. Thus, the higher price and bigger, bolder, more nuanced taste.
IGourmet.com is an excellent place to start your Olive adventure if you’re not lucky enough to have a grocery store with an Olive Bar.
Interestingly enough, fresh olives and cured olives were EVERYWHERE in Napa Valley. They were definitely the treat-du-jour in place of bread at some of the restaurants we went to.
Pajama Mama says
Interesting that you blogged on olives…I just did some online research on the origins and meanings of our kids names. Our 12yodd’s middle name is derived from “olive”…I read about how old olive trees can grow to be…and how they are a symbol of peace. There are some olive trees that are hundreds of years old and still producing fruit. Amazing? Just some little tidbits to help us appreciate olives and olive oil a little more…
Hello, I red your blog usualy but today is specially interesting for me. I am from Spain and here, the olives are everywhere. This is quite normal to drink something with a “tapa” of olives. I am glad you like the idea! I love your blog!
Teresa (was ShadesOfGrey) says
My kids and dh love olives (I prefer them on pizzas and in salads). Luckily for us, there’s a place in town with a good variety to choose from – huge vats of a good number of different types. I’ll have to show this post to the kids. 🙂
Besides the olive/lye connection to soap, you can include needing to cure, just like soap.
Joanna, why am I not surprised? You and I share a love of cupakes, soap and now olives … I guess great minds (ha ha) truly do think alike.
Joanna Schmidt says
Ok, I admit, I am a bit of an olive connoisseur (sort of). I am totally into olives and have a variety in my fridge now. Mmm. It is actually making me crave them.
Stephanie Ciccarelli says
It’s always nice to keep up on trends and learn something at the same time.
Who knew there were so many varieties of olives? I make a lot of Greek salads and I use the Kalamata olive as a mainstay.
Thanks for the great post,