What I’m Learning From Olives

November 14, 2014 , In: The Garden, Yum! , With: No Comments

California….the drought of 2014

This has been a very difficult year for those of us who produce food from our land – be it backyards or farms.  It’s also been hard to know what to write that will be helpful, inspiring, or – at the very least – entertaining.  My worry has resulted in a drought of words as well as water.

Then the call came from Alexis at Soul Food Farm to come help pick olives.  The crop is small this year. There are not enough to mill for oil.  So, come if you can and help pick what is there for brining and marinating. Farmers on small farms depend on the “barn raising” method of getting things done. Many hands make light work. We found our gloves, sun hats, and bottles of water and showed up.

When the Land Gives You Olives….

What I didn’t expect was the lifting of my soul as around 10 of us gathered our picking equipment and staked out a tree.  There was the hum of talking, laughter, calling out for instructions and the wayward dog who wanted to take himself  for a walk. The farm cat demanded a lap to sit on now and then.

There was the sound of the olive rake “combing” the branches of the trees and the “Boink” of olives as they fell on tarps and in buckets.

There was the call to lunch and sitting around the table sharing food and wonderful conversation.  It was uplifting beyond measure.  No complaining or grumbling, just sharing stories and methods for marinating the olives.

We drove off with a large pail of olives.  Every olive that left the farm that day made for less work as Alexis and her family clean the orchard and prepare for the winter.

Cure Those Olives

Funny how a pail of olives on the farm doesn’t look that big.  Nineteen pounds of olives is a bigger deal when they are in your kitchen! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing our brining and marinating olives project. This takes time but not a lot of effort.

Step One

Spend the time it takes to watch a movie sorting the olives and throwing out the damaged fruit, twigs and leaves.  Four hands make light work. Robbie the wonder sheltie supervises well.

Step Two

Wash the remaining olives – seventeen pounds worth – and put them in a clean, 5 gallon, food safe bucket.  Let me tell you, that bucket was NOT easy to find!  It took much Googling and checking with big box home improvement stores to find one in stock.  Of course, if we had planned ahead, there would have been oodles to choose from – including a free one from the bakery or deli at our local grocery store.

Step Three

Cross your fingers and hope you have enough Kosher Pickling Salt in the house to make enough brine to cover 17 pounds of olives.  Hope and pray that your water filter makes enough filtered water for this batch without running out of steam.

Make a note to buy more salt before it’s time to change the brine and check the date on the water filter.  I would bet dollars to donuts that the store I would run to at midnight would be out of Kosher Salt and the last minute dash to the plumbing store would result in only our filter being on back order.

Step Four

  • Olives in bucket, check.
  • Brine covering olives, check.
  • Pie plate on top of olives so they don’t float, check.
  • Lid on bucket, check.


And, now……we wait.  There’s no rush.  Olives cure in their own time.
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Hello, I'm Linda

I am a City Girl who was raised with backyard gardens and a chicken in every plot.

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