Olive Hints and Tips

In my never ending quest to know everything about everything, I supply you all with information deemed relevant for the post at hand: in this case, olives. It’s not everything you need to know, but it is all I could dig up over the past few days. Use this information for good, and not for evil.

  • The chemical that makes raw olives bitter and inedible is called glucoside oleuropein. To remove glucoside oleuropein, one either puts the picked olives in lye, salt, brine, or repeated baths of water.
  • If you purchase canned olives, you’ll increase their shelf life if you transfer them to a glass container and then refrigerate them. The brining solution in the can may react to the metal and give the olives an off taste.
  • White film found ontop of olive brine is perfectly harmless. Skim it off and rince off any film from the olives.
  • You can extend the life of olives by floating a small layer of vegetable oil ontop o fthe brine’s surface.
  • Avoid olives that are sold dry.
  • Discard any olives whose flesh tends to fall away from the stone without any coaxing.
  • Olives should be firm. Discard any that are soft.
  • A cherry pitter does an admirable job of pitting olives. Or you can press the flat side of a knife against several olives on a kitchen counter, giving the blade a small “thwack” to coax the pits out.
  • Other people have used rolling pins to remove olive pits (similar to the knife method mentioned above). Personally? I think this is equivilent to using a chainsaw to remove to trim one’s hedges.
  • Place excessively salty olives in milk for 30 minutes in the refrigerator to remove some of the salt. Others recommend simmering the olives in water in a covered dish for tem minutes, draining when done.
  • Remember, green = unripe; black = very ripe.
  • Often the more ripe the olive, the less bitter.
  • General rule of thumb? Green olives go with meat and pasta dishes. Black olives go with salads and make great tapanades. Stuffed olives (be it onions, pimentoes, anchovies) go with martinis and hors d’ouevres. There are exceptions obviously, but it’s a good place to start.


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