Table olives are a very important food around the Mediterranean countries for thousands of years. They don’t only give us the delicious olive oil, they are a highly nutritious food with a balanced content of monounsaturated fats, mainly oleic acid. In our days people become aware of the nutritional values of the olives andolive oil.
Eating olives also provides the RDA of fiber that is 30g. Olives contain minerals, especially calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, iodine, vitamin A and vitamin E, palmitic acid, omega 6, omega 3, minerals and stearic. The recommended daily amount is 7-10 olives.
Olives are an excellent food for athletes and have the same health effects that olive oil has.
Table olives are also a health risk food product, because of the micro-organisms and bacteria that grows during the processing. So we have to leave it to the experts.
Olives are bitter because of their high content of oleuropein that is a low sugar content, depending mostly on the variety of the olive.
The processing methods of olives are traditional, with improvements over the years.
There are three methods used for table olives preparation.
- The Spanish Method
- The Californian Method and
- The Greek Method
The Spanish and the Californian Methods use Sodium Hydroxide, that is a caustic soda. This Sodium Hydroxide penetrates the skin of the olive, enters the flesh and eliminates the bitterness. The olives are very bitter because they contain oleuropein, a very bitter carbohydrate.
The Greek Method is all natural and is called Natural Fermentation. The olives are placed in brine without any kind of treatment to remove the bitterness of the olives. Those are natural olives and are common in Eastern Mediterranean and especially in Greece.
The olives are hand picked when they are black ripe but not over-riped. They have to be transported fast, get washed and placed in big containers, in brine solution. In the beginning of the fermentation, the containers are tightly sealed, because the olives should not be exposed to air.
About 24 hours later a micro-bacterial activity for fermentation starts in the brine, and small bubbles rise to the surface. Then the bacteria and yeasts change the sugars into a vast array of flavors. When all the sugars are gone the salty water penetrates through the skin into the flesh and eliminates the bitterness of the olives.
During the processing the color fades, but after a couple days of aerating the olives, the color gets restored.
When the bitterness is gone, the olives are going for packaging and to the consumer. Only for the black olives the fermentation liquid becomes the packing liquid. Olives with blemishes are thrown away.
This process takes about a year to 14 months, but it produces a great table olive. So between the Spanish, Californian and Greek Methods, the Greek Method is the best because it is the all Natural One. The Greek Method though takes time and time is money.
Another way a Greek black olive is prepared is in Dry Sea Salt.
This way is made from the Megaritiki variety of olive that is over-riped, dehydrated black olives that are very popular in the Greek market. They are hand picked, very well washed and placed in baskets with alternative layers of Dry Sea Salt. It is one kilo of olives and 100-110 grams of salt. When the olives are done, they are not bitter, they are salty and look wrinkly like raisins. To get rid of the saltiness, my mother soaked them in water, then rinsed them and covered them with extra virgin olive oil.
There are also the seasoned olives.
Depends on the region of production, those olives are slashed and they are called haraktes, crushed and they are called tsakistes and placed in plain water to remove the bitterness. At the end they are a little bitter, salty and enhanced with herbs, garlic, lemon, orange or rosemary. Finally they are placed in olive oil.
These olives came from my aunt Flora’s olive orchard in Sparta Greece. These Kalamata olives are the best in the world and aunt Flora Dimitropoulos is a pro on preparing them.