In the Mediterranean region, the olives appear on every-body’s table as hors d’oeurves, or side dish, or aperitif and the culinary world presents them in many different ways. The olive fruit is not only for olive oil.
The olives in the poorer classes, especially in the Southern Europe are a main source of alimentation. With a piece of bread and a hand full of olives a laborer going to the field is equipped with his daily lunch.
Here in the United States of America, the olives are found in Greek, Italian, Spanish, French and on the tables of people who have traveled overseas and learned and adopted this wonderful way of eating. They are also found in bars, served as aperitifs that complement the drinks.
Here are some ways olives were pickled in the 1800s. Writer Du Breuil gives us a way to pickled olives. Pickled olives were very traditional just like today. The method of taking the bitterness out and which was considered the best, was the method of the brothers Picholini. When the olives were harvested from the tree, fully developed but were still green, they were placed in a strong lye of potash and left there until it was penetrated all the way to the pit. The lye then, was replaced with fresh cold water twice daily for the first week. After that, they were placed and kept in a strong brine.
Bernays in his writings says that preparing the picholines in France, was done by placing the olives in lye, made by one part of quick lime to six parts of ashes of young wood sifted. They were left in this lye for about six to eight hours. The lye was then replaced by fresh water, where they stayed for eight to ten days and being replaced every twenty-four hours. After that they were placed in a brine made of fresh water and a considerable amount of sea salt, with some aromatic plants added.
The process of the pickling of the olives was a simple operation. The strength of the lye in which the olives were placed in, should been regulated. Then those were important steps to follow.
- The olives should get picked from the olive tree when they were developed, but still green.
- The pickling process should take place in wooden barrels and rubber gloves should be used so the lye won’t come in contact with the skin.
- The lye should be settled completely, because otherwise its sediments would spot the olives.
- The olives should be covered with straw, with stones on top, to keep the top ones from floating.
- The barrels should be so disposed as to allow the lye to be drawn off quickly and completely, because by too long a contact with this strong lye, some olives would turn to be soft and spotty.
From the 19th century the pickling of the olives was a simple, quick and very inexpensive procedure.