When we moved to the farm, we inherited a large number of fruit trees: pear, fig, olive, orange, lemon, cling peach and a massive wild plum orchid that was, and still is, completely overgrown and not bearing fruit. In the early days, I conjured images of large pots happy bubbling away on the stove and me lovingly filling jars with fruit and sweet, sticky goodness. I soon learned though that keeping fruit trees are a HUGE undertaking that requires attention and dedication – and knowledge – none of which I had. Except for olives. Olives love doing their own thing, and so far, it’s the only crop we have that appears to have no appeal for fruit flies and their friends.
I missed the olive harvest last year because of a pre-occupation with my new baby. But this year, I am back in the olive preservation saddle and have produced a total of 7 jars. Shocking, considering I usually have at least 6 times that, but sadly even the olives felt the drought and the fruits were minimal. None the less, I am sure they’re going to be delicious!
This recipe is one of my own doing, but it’s ultimately a combination of tips from the local women in my community who have been doing this for years.
How to preserve your own olives with rosemary and garlic
- Fresh olives, harvested when they’re plump but still young
- 1kg coarse sea salt
- Salt water solution (390g of salt to 4.5 liters of water)
- Garlic cloves
- Vegetable oil (you can use olive, but canola or sunflower oil works as well)
- Selection of glass jar with tight-closing lids
Put the harvested olives in a large container with a lid, and soak it for 2 weeks, changing the water daily.
Next, give each olive a cut along one side, up to the stone. This will allow the bitterness to be drawn out of the flesh. Then carry on soaking for another 2 weeks, but this time add a handful of coarse sea salt to the water each time you change it.
A NOTE ON BOTTLING: to ensure your preserves stay preserved, is to make sure that the jars are sterilized. You can bake them in the oven at 140°C for 20 minutes, boil them in a large pot for 10 minutes, or just put them through an otherwise empty dishwasher on the setting with the highest temperature.
You are ready to bottle! Sterilize the jars and fill each one with the rinsed olives, a few cloves of garlic and a sprig of rosemary, leaving about 1 cm free at the top.
Pour the salt water solution over the olives, still keeping that 1cm free at the top.
Fill the jar to the top with vegetable oil. The oil will prevent air from getting in and spoiling all your hard work.
Screw the lids on tightly and leave for another minimum 2 weeks. Using this method, I have been able to preserve olives for up to 12 months.
While it does take a bit of time, it is seriously worth the wait. Enjoy!