Son-in-law Adam recently completed his annual olive-brining ritual. He buys the raw fruits from an online source, and then in his kitchen prepares them in a variety of ways, from traditional to spicy-hot.
A few weeks ago he presented me with a jar containing his latest production. These olives were unlike any I had ever before eaten. While the flavor was somewhat similar to the store-bought greens, the texture was al dente, almost crispy. And, they were bigger than the largest olives I have seen.
As I tasted one, then two, memories surfaced of the sun-drenched Tuscan countryside, where groves of olive trees in straight rows gambol up and down the hills, their gray-green leaves shimmering in the light. And then more memories bubbled up from even further back, to my time living in Israel, where olive trees grow even on the main streets of the cities.
While living in Jerusalem, I came into possession of the novel The Last Temptation of Christ, by Nikos Kazantzakis. It was a great book altogether, but one scene in the story stands out in my mind for its vivid description. Jesus stops during his travels to rest under a tree. He extends his hand and plucks an olive the size of an apple from its branches – enough to serve as lunch.
What an image! Upon reading it, I made my way directly to King George Street and picked a couple of tiny green olives. I then made a big mistake: I bit into one. Bit, as in bitter. Yuck. Olives need to be treated, either through brining or curing. Lesson learned.
And then more recently, while on a saunter through Jerusalem, we came upon two women picking olives in the Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood. They had come from outside the city specifically for this purpose, but had forgotten to bring a ladder, or even a tarp to collect the harvest, so 6’4″ hubby offered to pick from the higher branches. I helped work the lower ones.
If only there were a better way, I thought. And, then just last week I saw a video on the Internet with the most amazing invention for harvesting olives. See for yourself if this isn’t just the dandiest garden implement to have. Of course, it’s probably not a practical purchase for the casual olive briner, but hey, it’s so neat I just had to share it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKF_axA9zog
Until Adam made olives, I had never considered doing it at home. Now I think I may try next year. With every bite, I can be transported from the winter gloom to a warm and beautiful place.
In the meantime, since we live in New England, buying online is probably the best strategy for me.
Lorrin Krouss says
Wonderful story. While I will never venture to brine my own olives, I do love them. And that mechanical olive catcher! Looks like an upside down umbrella. I always learn something new on your fun and fact-filled blog.
If only we could grow olives here in New England! I’d brine them for you, friend.