Sunday, November 13, 2011

DIY Olives - Part 1 of a series

Virgin America had this great sale over the summer that came right at the same time as a few dollars in our bank account. We jumped on that and booked tickets  to spend Sukkos in Rancho Mirage, California with family out there. There were many benefits to spending time in Cali at the end of October. Extending the summer, for one. Spending time with relatives on their turf. If I may add, relatives who have olive trees in their backyard.

I envisioned a blog post with videos and pictures of my sun-kissed kids filling buckets of olives. I planned a blog mini-series of the olive curing process. Nice planning. We arrived in California to find bare trees. Lots of sun, no clouds and no olives. Plan A, out the window.

Comes Plan B, I googled olive picking in the surrounding area and found an Olive and Wine Fair in Cherry Valley - on the very last day of our trip. It sounded great. They offered olive picking, olive oil products, a farmers market (you know how obsessed I am with farmers markets....) live music, and other options that didn't include us like wine and food.  We looked at a map, found it to be on the way to the airport, and planned to leave early enough to take olives home with us.

Whew, olives out of the way. We had a lovely sukkos, enjoyed the very hot weather, good company and food, a resort quality pool at a friend's house, and overall a great getaway.

On leaving day we packed up, left early enough to fill up on olives and headed out. We arrived at a festival that was high spirited and lively. We walked around from booth to booth and searched, in vain, for olive picking. There were some lovely olive trees, but alas, they were bare. At the olive press booth, they were selling olive presses for $998, but no fresh, raw olives. Plan B, out the window.

We ordered olives online.
They arrived on Friday. The bell rang and USPS unceremoniously dropped the box at the door and disappeared before I got there. A little anti climactic, wouldn't you think?
- Opening the door and finding one lone box of olives, sitting there. But olives we have. And the process has begun. And I am sharing it with you.

The olives have arrived, the olives have arrived
(think "the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming).

Arrived indeed. It's Friday afternoon and there are now 10 pounds of olives in a box that need to be processed. With Shabbos starting at 4:24, dare I put these away till after Shabbos? I don't think the choice is actually mine.

  Note the great cutting knife we use.

now if I could only get my hands on some olives.....

 The olive process is long and tedious. It involves months of patience, something that is hard to come by in this day and age. Raw olives are very bitter. Olives are soaked in water and the bitterness leaches out. The water needs to be changed very frequently. It takes months until the olives are no longer bitter and ready for seasoning.

Step 1: Get your olives into a bowl.
I actually have 42 pictures of this process. My super duper canon 60d allows me to do that and oh so much more.
Aren't you glad I chose 6?
Step 2:
Pick through and rinse.

Step 3: Fill jars/containers that you can spare for the next many months.

It's an hour left to Shabbos, "the day is young...."
Can I go off on a little tangent here?
Pinny (of  the Über-Talented, of Pinny's Perfect Pickles, of Falafel experiments,  of sourdough bread, of father to my children, of husband extraordinaire who keeps me on my toes) has this great habit of doing things on Friday afternoons that have nothing to do with Shabbos.

For example: Back in the day when we used to have a fish tank, Friday was the day he chose for cleaning the fish tank.

A few years later he was growing a veggie garden, and yes, Friday was the day he spent the most time in the garden. If I may add, Friday afternoon, after the floor was mopped and the bathroom cleaned, he would come in muddy and sweaty and happy.

It's the first Friday back on Standard Time, which I love.
I would not have chosen this day/time as olive processing, but who asked me?

Step 4: Leave jars on the counter, near the sink, in the way of everything, for the next 6 months.

What comes after this is rinse, soak and repeat, many times over.

I'm thinking to have a monthly olive post until they're ready, but if anything exciting happens in between, I'll be sure to update you first.

Would like to give a shout out to Chanale Fellig Harrel, of 'Chanale' for sharing some blog photo tips, and for inspiring me to get this post out of my head and into a blog.  I'm hoping your drive is contagious.

To good health and an abundance of patience,


PS. Part 2 of D.I.Y. Olives here.


  1. I love your posts and you Chanie! this one made truly made me lol.

  2. Thank you so much for this post, I've wanted to do this for so long. Can you share the source for the olives? Also, do you leave them uncovered for the entire duration of the curing process?

  3. What a fun post! I totally relate to the "erev Shabbos let me go work in the yard" deal!
    Can't wait to watch your olive mature with you.

  4. I got the olives from:

    Pinny Lew

  5. Thank you all. Feeling the love.
    Anonymous: we leave them covered. Pinny shared the olive source in the above comment.

  6. great post. i'm excited for the next installment.

  7. Love your posts especially because i can hear you say it all. So exciting to see all the stages..

  8. Anonymous: it doesn't really matter if you cover it or not - as far as process goes - you may want to keep it covered to keep dust out.

  9. Great post, Chanie! This and all the rest. I am so enjoying your blog--fabulous writing and a great style that reflects your creativity.

  10. Thank you very much!

  11. Chana, you have so much to share, never stop!!