Olive season is here again and it seems a bit early this year. We plan to pick some olives in a few weeks for making oil with so I thought I'd do a quick pick for pickling. Our three trees are still too young to fruit so we go searching the burbs for unwanted gold. Last year we pickled a big bucket and it lasted about six months, so this year I picked twice the amount (we love olives!). Here's how we do it.
Olive basics (according to me): Small olives are best for oil (you get a much higher amount of oil per kilo), large ones for pickling (this is mainly due to ease of harvest I think, the best tasting pickled olives I've had are Olives de Nice and they're quite small). Green olives or ones just turning black are ready to pickle. Trees which are about two thirds black olives are best for oil pressing (but don't put in soft olives).
I loaded the bike up with buckets, step ladder and my harvest bag and set off to a new spot we've found (sorry, it's top secret can't say where). It's an area with lots of small trees on the verge which no-one seems to pick. Usually I would knock on the door and ask people but here there's no need here since they were planted by the developer and not the home owner.
I picked around 40kg in a couple of hours. When I got home I just filled the buckets with water and put a plate on top to stop them oxidising (very important since they will go off quickly if you don't do this).
For the next ten days I'll change the water daily to take out the bitterness. Then I'll pickle them in brine and wait 6-8 months. For more details of the recipe see this post. Once you pick your own olives it's hard to go back. I simply cannot buy pickled olives in the shops any more, it just seems crazy on so many levels (cost, food miles, taste). It's actually very easy once you learn. Last year I had planned to jar up all the olives from the big bucket into smaller glass jars. Then I thought bugger it that's a lot of work so I just left them in the bucket (it's food safe) under the kitchen table. When I wanted some olives I simply scooped some out with a slotted spoon and hey presto, they're ready to go. Here's the end result, plenty of olives to last the next 12-18 months for the whole family.