The olive trees around the winery and in Lakecliff did well last year, and for the first time my big olive tree was not only loaded with olives, but they also looked perfect, as no untimely weather messed with their ripening on the tree. So, just before the cold weather struck, my husband and I harvested a bumper crop of Arbequina olives. They are fairly small olives, similar to the ones you would find in Salade Nicoise in Provence, but of a lighter color. So what to do with that crop. Making oil would have been fun, but we have not managed to find a home suitable olive press, so we resorted to brining them instead. After some thorough internet research, I opted for stacking the olives with celtic salt in big jars, and filling the jars with hot water. Two months in the climate controlled wine room and the bitterness of the olives (yes, we tasted them right off the tree) disappeared, they were easily separated from the pit, and quite tasty, and…much to my surprise….. really juicy.
So now I proceeded to experiment: 3 of the gallon size jars are now the olives drained of the brine, patted dry, put back in the jars, with different herbs and spices (one with rosemary, pepper corns and bay leaves, two with thyme, oregano, pepper corns and lemon rind) and filled up with extra virgin olive oil. It will be interesting to see how this will change texture and taste of the olives, so stay tuned.
The fourth jar however is now going through a different process: I figured there are only so many olives in herbs and oil we can consume, so I decided to try another angle: making tapenade. Tapenade is the brownish/blackish olive/caper paste you get on slices of toasted baguette in southern France, particularly in Provence, and a slightly different version in parts of Italy. When looking for inspiration for how to make tapenade, I learnt that the word origin actually comes from the capers in the paste, something I had not known was even in there. Soooooo….. which version to make? As is usually the case, recipes provide inspiration, but they are really only guidelines, invitations to experiment and add your own angle.
So here’s my version of tapenade:
200 gr of top quality brined, pitted olives
50 gr of capers (drain the liquid from the jars)
10 anchovies fillets
3-4 cloves of garlic
a dash of lemon juice
celtic salt and ground pepper to taste
Use a small food processor to pulse the ingredients and then move to a mortar and continue to mash together with the pestle, until get a fine paste. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil into the mixture, working it in with the pestle, until you get a nice smooth paste that is not too dense, but not too soft either, just perfect to put teaspoon size bits on a slice of fresh French bread.
Also try it with a slice of a ripe tomato, either by itself or on the bread, maybe a tiny slice of mozzarella (the little mozzarella balls slice up), or a slice of goat cheese, it’s yummy.
So…..if you happen to have an olive tree in your yard (self pollinating, or the right combo of paired trees for pollination)…go for it and let us know how it turns out.
A votre sante, B.