December 07, 2018
Are you a fan of olives? Do you want to know what the secret is to flavourful and nutrient-dense olives? The way in which they are cured makes all the different to the taste and flavour.
Olives have to be cured because they're unpalatably bitter when they come off the tree. If you’ve ever tried to eat them, you’ll know it’s impossible. To be able to eat them, they have to be cured in some manner. The Old World way of doing that is fermentation. A lot of people have departed from the Old World way because of time and money, though it's making a comeback today.
Old World vs New World Olive Curing
Old World fermentation is the secret to flavourful and nutrient-dense olives. The Old World method is simple. The olives are placed into salted spring water and then sealed in large vats so there’s no air. They are left there to ferment for about two or two and a half months. They are then rinsed, pitted and dried.
“Our olives come from a third generation farm in Peru where they just won’t do it any other way." says Randy Olsen, founder, Zebra Organics. "As far as olives go, this is a lost art. There are a few places in the world that still do it, but these are few and far between.”
Nowadays the most common method of curing olives is with lye, a caustic chemical that you have to rinse out. Lye kills a lot of the good bacteria and also takes away the natural flavour and aroma.
“The reason most companies cure the New World way nowadays is because of time and money. They don't want to spend the time on fermentation. Curing with lye only takes 12 hours. The Old World way is a huge time commitment. Many companies aren’t doing things because they're mindful of taste, quality and nutrient value; it's just money. They want to get the food out there fast and they want to produce huge volumes of it. They also want to keep it on the shelves for extended amounts of time but the irony of that is fermentation actually preserves the olive - or any other food. When you open up our Black Botija Olives, they don’t have to be refrigerated, unlike olives that are cured in lye. They are already preserved,” says Olsen.
Be mindful of the cans on grocery store shelves that say “Black, ripe olives.” These are likely to have been picked as a green olive off the tree and have had all the nutrients cooked out of them with chemicals. They are put into a combination of things like lye and iron salts and other highly caustic and alkaline liquids. (While people talk about being alkaline, being fully alkaline, like being fully acidic, burns though metal). Lye is one of the most alkaline (and dangerous) chemicals on the planet. The olives have to be rinsed multiple times before they’re packaged, so there’s no chance of ingesting the lye. Being extremely corrosive, you can’t get it on your skin or it will burn through it.
Zebra Organics Olives
Our Black Botija Olives offer a robust flavour. Cured in spring water, they are rinsed over a few days, sun dried and pitted. The process is all manual and there is no salt added afterwards. You can enjoy the natural texture, while tasting all the layers of flavour that is preserved via the Old World curing process.
Olives make for a great appetizer. Put these black olives out during a party and they’ll be your most popular snack and are guaranteed to not last long. Olives are also great in pasta salads and pasta sauces.
Give them a try and let us know what you think!
The Benefits of Fermentation
Fermentation has been around as long as man. As long as there’s been life on earth there’s been some form of fermentation. Popular foods like beer, bread, coffee, kimchi and sauerkraut have all been fermented. There’s no food that you can’t ferment.
Fermented foods foster gut health. Anytime you’re eating fermented food, you’re increasing the good bacteria in your system, which we cannot live without. (The bacterium that’s harmful to humans is killed during the fermentation process). As a culture, we’ve become afraid of bacteria. We’re a nation of germophobes. What’s important is that the more good bacteria we have in our bodies, the less chance bad bacteria has to grow and cause disease.
Fermented foods don’t rot or decay and are more flavourful. There's a lot of research now that has found they regulate our mood, the chemistry of our stomach and our immune system.
Olives for Good Health
Olives have been part of the Mediterranean diet since the Middle Ages and they come with all sorts of health benefits. Did you know all olives are black? There’s no such thing as a green olive tree. (Mind blowing, isn't it?). Olives are picked at different times of the season, depending on preference. If you let all olives ripen fully they will all be black.