Foraging and Curing Olives

Olive tree

Season (Kala)

As we exit the northern solstice, “Uttarayana,” which is heat dominant (Agneya)  , and transition into the southern solstice, Daksinayana, cooling and moon dominate (Saumya), here in Australia, the earth moves a little more away from the sun in the southward direction.
Seasonal transition (RtuSandhi ऋतुसन्धि) is a significant event in Ayurveda. Not adapting to the outer environment and supporting your biological changes which vulnerably occur at this sandhi (transition) time is considered one of the significant causes of disease.
So that is why in the Vedic culture, 9 nights are designated at these times of transition. These nine nights (Navratri) are provided to go more inward (opportunity for enhanced spiritual connection), eating less or some types of fasting so your cellular energy can be utilised on other biological functions than predominately digestion, and eating certain foods and herbs to assist with this transition.
Here in Australia at this time of year (around late April), nature provides olives. Ripe and ready on the tree to be brined and cured.
Olives being fermented and rich in Lactrobacillus bacteria have the action of sparking up the digestive fire (deepena karma).
This naturally aligns with nature because by the time these olives are cured and ready to eat, it’s winter, and the digestive fire is stronger as it huddles in to keep the body warm and digest higher protein and fatty foods to keep us insulated as we hibernate through winter.
Olives have a delicious abundance of monounsaturated fat. This coupled with biophenol anti-oxidants, helps regulate cholesterol by preventing the bad cholesterol in the arterial walls and supporting the good cholesterol for heart, brain and hormonal health.
Dylan Smith harvesting wild olives
Overall inflammation is reduced in the body by the phenolic compounds in olives when they are had in moderation
However, olives are quite salty and heating. So make sure to consume them in condiment sizes and eat them seasonally - in winter. Pitta types   should eat less of them as they can increase this fire which may manifest as skin diseases, acne, irritable bowel syndrome, hyperacidity and anger/irritability.  
So my fellow Australians and those around the world who are reading this or saving it for when your season comes, look for some wild or generous olive trees and have a go at curing them…

Brine and Cure Method

Brine cured olives are absolutely delicious!
The basic principle of curing olives is that you are using water and salt to extract the glycoside from them - the chemical which makes olives very bitter when picked. Then you are left with sweeter, bitter, salty tasty fruits.
  1. Soak olives in water - Put your olives in a bowl or esky or drum of pure room temperature water. (It is good to have a tap as you will be draining the water and refilling regularly). Or you can sit your olives in a strainer in a bowl of water for easy removal and water change.
  2. Cover the vessel and leave for two days.
  3. After two days, empty the water and refill with new water.
  4. Repeat this process for about 14 days total. (If you forget about your olives for an extra day or two, that is fine).
Brine Cured Olives
Now it’s time to brine…
  1. In a big jar mix 1L of pure warm-hot water with 100gm of salt non-idolised good quality salt. Warm-hot water is used so that the salt can dissolve evenly throughout the water.
  2. Note you can make 5L or 20L of brine (highly concentrated salty water). Whatever you want. Just ensure the water to salt ratio is 10:1 (10% salt). So if you are doing 5L of water, add 500gm salt.
  3. Once the jar of salt water is cooled to room temperate, add your olives in until they reach the top of the jar. It is good to squish them down tightly in. They should be fully submerged under the brine. To achieve this, add a small plate or some big flat rocks to weigh the olives down.
  4. Keep your jar of olives in a dark place with a stable temperature (like a pantry).
  5. How much time to brine? -  This depends on the size of olives, the ripeness, how long you did the water stage for (if at all, you don’t have to do this stage but it makes the olives tastier and smoother), how salty you like your olives .
  6. Taste your olives after they’ve been in the brine for 2 months and get to know the taste of brining olives. This can take 4-12 months for them to be ready.
  7. After the brine stage - When they are ready, you should strain the brine (this will be very bitter).
  8. Then store your olives by adding them into a new brine (this lasts for up to 6 months), in olive oil or in 50:50 vinegar and water solution.
  9. Add herbs and spices like rosemary, fennel and lemon slices is good to add at this into the jar for the storage phase until you eat them all.
  10. Enjoy your very own brine cured olives!
Have you ever brine cured olives? How do you use olives in your cooking? Comment below 👇
Olive brining recipe adopted from @milkwood

Related Reading: Foraging & Eating Seaweed ~ Australian Golden Kelp


Olive Oil Fraud – 70% of the Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Sold in the World is Fake

extra virgin olive oil

Ever since the journalist Tom Mueller broke the story about how more than 70% of the extra-virgin olive oil sold in the world is fake (cut with cheaper oils), olive oil lovers all over the world have been scrambling to find authentic, 100% real olive oil.

Olive Oil in Australia & USA

Australian's are the largest consumers of extra virgin olive oil outside of the Mediterranean.
Australian Olive Oil business is $300 million+ a year. It is also an unregulated industry, making it a very slippery trade.

The FDA in USA admits, "that because of lack of funds, and because of higher priority items, they simply don't have the time and resources to check olive oil." (2)

When you have the third largest and one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and no-one is checking extra virgin olive oil quality, it is an open invitation to fraud.

What Is Actually in Your Olive Oil

Olive Oil is commonly adulterated with deodorized oils like soybean oil, sunflower seed oil, or canola oil, then colored with chlorophyll (green dye), flavored with beta-carotene and sold as extra-virgin olive oil.(1)

There are high-tech frauds in which reputable companies use low temperature refining processes to take very ordinary olive oil with flavour flaws and bad smells - and produce a very bland and very ordinary deodorised oil which is then sold as "extra-virgin."

There are "legal frauds." Companies use misleading or disruptive advertising to sell something as "special" when it is just very ordinary.

It is so easy to fool consumers! Especially in the Australian and American market where very few people actually know what good olive oil taste like!

Olive Oil Should Be FRESHLY Squeezed

Olives are stone fruits, like cherries and plums.  So real extra virgin olive oil is fresh-squeezed fruit juice – seasonal, perishable, and never better than the first few weeks it was made. Don't let olive oil sit in your pantry for ages.

They change the use- by-dates.

“We erased the old text with acid tone, re-printed to them on the side of the glass with a laser printer that we had set up for the bottled line."
Factory worker at the Australian company, Big Olive, revealing that the retail olive oil they was being sold was up to 3 years out of date.

Most dodgy olive oil comes from overseas, mainly the Mediterranean. Australian brands are also dodgy such as The Big Olive, Oz Oilio, Coorgon (SA region) and Bene Vita. Even "GC Extra Virgin Olive Oil" from Crete, Greece (produced by Master Chef George Calombaris) was taken off the market (to my knowledge as I cannot find it anymore)  due to an investigation that it was sadly pretty old and not even extra virgin.

How to Tell if Your Olive Oil Is Fake

A lot of the DIY tests that has been suggested are unreliable, such as “the fridge test” and the “oil lamp test.”
The Taste test is ok for experts that are really in-tune, however this is still unreliable as majority of people simply cannot taste the difference. Even self-proclaimed taste-testing experts have been shown to be miserable failures.

Taste Tip: Bitterness and pungency are usually indicators of an oil’s healthfulness.  Sweetness and butteriness are often not.

Solution: Know Your Farmer

Like all food, it is always best to get to know your farmer. Go to farmers markets and talk to them. Build trust and you are set.

Know the WHEN, WHO, WHERE of your oil:

  • When it was made (harvest date)
  • Who made it (specific producer name)
  • Where (exactly) on the planet they made it.

Artisan and locally-produced olive oils (the variety you can find from small family farms) are a good choice as they probably have passed every scientific test of authenticity. So, buy locally.

But What if You Can’t Buy Olive Oil Locally?

Studies showed that domestic olive oil from single producers or small co-ops of growers was always real. This is safe because olive oil adulteration can happen with the middle men — the people who buy olive oil in bulk from individual farmers and collect it in bulk to sell to corporate buyers. You want small farms who grow it - pack it straight into the bottle for retail sale. (Note big farms and companies can still grow - adulterate - pack for retail all on their own site).

Safe Supermarket Oils:

(in alphabetical order, picked by Olive Oil expert Tom Mueller)

  • California Olive Ranch – grown in super high density groves in northern California. Available at a wide range of stores throughout the US.  Note that their Limited Reserve is the highest-quality oil, unfiltered and from olives picked during the first 2 weeks of harvest.
  • Cobram Estate – extra virgin olive oil from a range of cultivators, grown in Australia. Also available in USA and Canada.
  • Corto Olive – good, fresh super-high-density arbequina oil available at Costco.
  • Costco Kirkland Toscano – Kirkland is the Costco store brand. Kirkland Organic EVO is not good, but the Toscano signature oil is the real deal.
  • Di-Lusso Estate - Located in NSW Mudgee, Australia, this is my local supplier. I know the farmer, the owner, the quality is awesome! This cold-pressed, extra virgin organic olive oil has high nutrient value, high anti-oxidant effect and is used in Vital Veda Baby Massage Oil.
  • Fandango - Californian Extra-virgin that comes of the trees and goes straight to the mill for pressing. This ensures no rancidity. - (picked by Dylan Smith).
  • Lucini –  Widely available across North America. Lucini Premium Select is their finest oil, made on a a single estate near Bolgheri, in the Maremma region of Tuscany.
  • Oleoestepa – USA.
  • O-Live – available at stores across Canada, and in selected US stores
  • Ottavio and Omaggio - USA
  • Trader Joe’s – 3 out of the 6 extra virgin oils are the real deal. One of these, the Premium 100% Greek Kalamata, was very fresh, spicy, complex at an extremely competitive price (1 liter for $8.99).
  • Whole Foods California 365 – The Whole Foods store brand from California is good-quality extra virgin olive oil. The other members of the 365 lineup are poor.

olive oils Australia.png

Other Shopping Notes:

  • It is best for Australians to buy locally and get Australian certified. Australian standard are now being raised to better quality.
  • Choose olive oil in a dark glass bottle so it doesn't get damaged by light.
  • Eat it quick. Don't let it sit on your shelf for long. - 3 months max.
  • Ensure it is organic, cold-pressed and extra-virgin.
  • Ensure it is not "light" - (good) fats are not bad, they are good.
  • Always close lid tightly after using. Oxygen + oil = rancid oil (highly toxic).
  • Smoke Point of EVO: 190 degrees C (375 F) - Do not heat above this temperature.

 

References:

  1. http://www.truthinoliveoil.com
  2. Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil - Tom Mueller