That time of the year`s come a tadge early this year, but never mind, the rewards are great when making your own brined olives.
There are plenty of different olives here in Crete, one particular type, stafidolia (σταφιδολιά), falls from the tree when ripe and can be eaten from the ground. To preserve this particular olive, you can salt them lightly, or store in olive oil. They`re not common all over Crete, but are prolific in and around Rethymno and Messara (South coast).
The olives we have here at our house, are of the conservolia variety, with many common names and types. For brining, we harvest before they have fully ripened. Like most things here in Crete, you`ll find a hundred different ways of doing the same job, the end results differing slightly, or greatly. It`s all down to personal taste and olive type available. Persevere though, if you`re not pleased with the results this year, try a different olive and procedure next year.
Pick through and discard damaged or insect nibbled ones. Put into a lidded container with water covering them, (don`t screw or fasten down the lid, just place over the top to prevent debris falling into the olives). Change this water daily for about 2 weeks. This reduces the bitterness. You can periodically test them during this process. Again, certain levels of bitterness are desired by some, and not by others, so it`s down to personal taste.
When you`re happy that the olive has reached a satisfactory flavour, make up your brine as follows:
For each litre of water dissolve into it 100 to 150 grammes of rock salt.
Pour this brine over the olives, place the lid on and leave in a darkened place for at least a month. Check them after a month and if necessary, leave further.
Whilst you are opening and closing your container, the olives will be exposed to the atmosphere and will for sure, develop mould on the surface of the water. Personally, this doesn`t bother me too much. When I want to fish out a portion of olives, I push the mould to one side and scoop out the olives, rinsing under the tap and storing in the fridge until consumed. If you are bothered by this mould, you can reduce the chances of it developing, by skimming a centimetre or so of olive oil over the surface of the water, supplementing it each time you disturb it.
You can, of course, flavour your olives many different ways, with vinegar, lemon, thyme, rosemary etc. These flavourings are added at the final brining stage and left in the container. The quantity of salt will vary dependent on the type of olive and any other flavourings used. If you find they are too salty, you can de-salt them by soaking in water again.
If you`re short on containers, use a water bottle.
These olives are from an uncultivated tree down in the dry river bed. As they tend to be more bitter than cultivated, I soaked these for nearly 20 days, changing the water daily before salting.