The Arbequina Olive Project

This week Mr. H. came home with a neat surprise: a bag of freshly harvested arbequina olives from a friend’s tree. I rushed to the thought of curing them at home.

I was going to follow Laura’s method of curing olives, but I had to do a double take. These aren’t your usual olives. They are Spanish arbequina olives. They are known to be a prized high quality variety of olives. The arbequina olives also happen to be very small in size, which made me think that the usual physical chemical science behind curing bigger olives might not quite be the same for these.

You can imagine how small they are in the next picture compared to my fingers. No, I don’t have huge fingers. Though if I did it might be a bit more practical for me, I would be able to reach a wider range of notes on the piano than what I can do (9 white keys wide, after a life of finger stretching excercises).

Arbequina olive

It seems that the usual method of curing olives would be to leave them soaking in water and salt for weeks or even months, changing the water now and then, about once a week. Uncured olives are very bitter because of its content in oleuropein. This brining process empties the olives of the oleuropein to reduce the bitterness. In the case of the arbequina olives, they apparently contain a bit less oleuropein to begin with, and soaking them in a salted solution for too long would make them shrink and get wrinkly. According to what I read, the only thing I have to do is soak them in water for 4-8 weeks in a sterile jar and change the water every few days, also watch out for any unwanted fungal growth.

Once they are soft and non-bitter enough, then I can put them in brine and flavour them with whatever I want.

My olives are now lazily soaking in a huge jar. When the time comes to put them in brine, I might separate them into smaller jars so I can create different flavours with them. Now I have 4-8 weeks to decide what ingredients I want to add. Any suggestions?

Thank you for reading!

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  1. Ginger 2014-10-05 at 20:23

    How lucky you are – again – to have access to such wonderful food. I am really looking forward to your progress!

  2. Sunny 2014-10-05 at 20:41

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen uncured olives! I usually buy them from the market (from Moroccan merchants). I love this type with lemon (or lime?) and coriander. Something slightly spicy can’t go wrong, either! Can’t wait to see what you end up doing with them 🙂

    1. Sofia 2014-10-06 at 11:23

      Looks like you buy them with great seasoning. Anything slightly spicy can never go wrong for me. Thanks for your suggestions Sunny! xx

  3. MarkG 2014-10-05 at 21:35

    There is some very good info about curing and preserving arbequina olives in this PDF

    I may be too late for the ‘curing’ element of the instructions!

    If you are going to preserve them in brine then make sure that you pour a bit of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) on top of the brine to give your cured olives a longer life. This prevents a fungal mould from forming on top of the brine and turning the whole jar bad.This is a product of oxidisation and will occur even in a sealed jar. Even in a fridge olives in brine have a limited lifespan. The oil really ensures that the preserved olives hold their flavor.

    I am much more in favor of preserving the cured olives in EVOO as they last for ages – even outside of a fridge. Also, the flavoured oil has many uses once you have eaten all of the olives – salad dressing, for drizzling on pasta or pizza, for roasting vegetables, grilling (‘broiling’) fish, etc. Also…the items/ingredients that you use for flavoring the oil can be reused in your recipes. In brine they will be zapped of any flavour.

    Regarding suggestions for flavouring your preserved olives I can recommend a blend that is used by a Turkish gentleman at a local deli. He has two large vats of green (large, pitted and hand-stuffed with pimento) and black (smaller and non-pitted) olives which are both swimming in EVOO. His mother (who prepares these olives) adds small chilies (red and yellow), slivers of garlic, small pieces of lemon and coriander (‘cilantro’) seeds. It is a great combination!

    If you preserve in olive oil with a concoction of herbs this may be later used as a base for a ‘pesto’ sauce.

    I now challenge you to make a tapenade with your newly cured olives. You have 4 weeks to think about it. It goes great with grilled sardines. Bon appetit!

    1. Sofia 2014-10-06 at 15:53

      Hi MarkG! I actually had read that pdf 🙂
      I will indeed put EVOO once I finally put them in the brine. I do want to make tapenade too, though I don’t think I have enough of these olives to make them and will probably buy some from my local market to do that.
      The garlic, lemon and coriander combination sounds great, plus I always have those ingredients lurking around. Thanks for all your suggestions, much appreciated!

  4. Guillermina Stover 2014-10-05 at 23:20

    I will have to wait patiently to see the wonderful results! I have tasted raw olives–YECH! It was a sneaky trick of my husband’s. The post submitted by MarkG looks quite interesting…

    1. Sofia 2014-10-06 at 15:54

      MarkG wrote more than I did I think 😉
      That was sneaky of your husband! How long did you chew them for? haha

  5. Guillermina Stover 2014-10-05 at 23:24

    I just googled “Arbequina Olives”–according to wikipedia they were introduced to Europe from Palestine in the 17th century, grown now in Cataluña, Aragón, & Andalucía (as well as California USA, Argentina, Chile, & Australia). And they are mostly used to make olive oil, because of the high concentrations of olive oil…

    1. Sofia 2014-10-06 at 15:54

      Yep, and here in Barcelona they are considered a delicacy amongst the different types of olives.

  6. Liz 2014-10-06 at 05:20

    oh wow. How yum! What fun to be working with something just a bit different. And did I mention YUM? 😉

  7. roberthorvat 2014-10-06 at 07:39

    I am obsessed with olives. If I could grow an olive grove I would ! Matter a fact I would include grape vines too 🙂

    1. Sofia 2014-10-06 at 08:12

      I would include lemon and fig trees too 🙂 I hope you’ll grow them when you can!

  8. chef mimi 2014-10-06 at 14:09

    What a fun project! Can’t wait to see what you do with them.

  9. Kiss & Make-up 2014-10-06 at 15:49

    Call me crazy, but I hate olives. Really do not like the taste at all. I don’t even like olive oil because of that reason. I know it’s healthy but I just can’t help it.

  10. Pemberley Cup & Cakes by Rosa 2014-10-06 at 18:07

    You could try fennel (and maybe a few lemon chunks too); my father always adds fennel to his cured olives. They taste so wonderfully great… <3 I love you new project!

  11. Patty Nguyen 2014-10-07 at 06:49

    What a fun project! I can’t wait to see what flavor combinations you come up with. My mind is drawing a blank, otherwise I’d chime in with suggestions! 😉

  12. laurasmess 2014-10-08 at 09:37

    Oh that sounds much easier Sofia! I hadn’t heard of arbequina olives but they sound delicious (so tiny!). Can’t wait to see the finished result. Beautiful photos! xx

    1. Sofia 2014-10-08 at 09:45

      Laura I just hope they turn out well so we can enjoy them as much as you enjoyed yours. A few of them are turning brown so I’m worried I’m doing something wrong. I’ll research about it this afternoon..

  13. Marta 2014-10-08 at 13:16

    Hi Sofia!!Congratulations for your blog and also for your comments and cooking experiences. I would like to say you that my olives are like yours, turning brown…because I believe that it’s for the type of the olive. See the 2 links, that is our guide for the second year already. And I can confirm that we were eating olives from Paula’s tree during all the year (My daughter). We present the olive tree when she born 10 years ago, so it’s a good investment to have olives for a year. Júlia my other daughter has an apple tree, and we have apples each year as well. :-).
    I will let you know in one week the final spices used. Remember to use mineral water. It’s very important to save correctly.
    Thanks and good luck!

    1. Sofia 2014-10-08 at 13:35

      Hi Marta, thank you so much for your tips and olives. I will change the water to mineral water today! What a fantastic present, both the olive tree and the daughters 🙂 An apple tree is also a great idea. Petons 😉

      1. Marta 2014-10-08 at 14:10

        Sorry for the confusion Sofia, the mineral water should be used when you prepare the pots. For now it is not necessary.

        1. Sofia 2014-10-08 at 14:12

          Oh good! 🙂

  14. Amanda 2014-10-08 at 23:05

    This is so interesting. I wish I had an olive tree so I can cure olives too. I’m obsessed with them. I hope yours turn out well! Love your nail polish.

    1. Sofia 2014-10-09 at 09:48

      I hope one day I have a garden big enough to have an olive tree, a lemon tree and a fig tree at least! Hehe the nail polish is YSL in the colour Bleu Cobalt, very beautiful in real life!


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