February 27, 2022

‘Olive’. For a moment those of a particular generation may envision the tall and lanky girlfriend of Popeye the Sailor. Putting that aside, one would likely associate the word with that which is green, or black, or pimento-stuffed.

Olives, of the fruit sort, are indeed familiar, to the point of almost being taken for granted. They show up in or with many food presentations and yet they themselves have a few misunderstood traits….

Did you know, for example, that ‘curing‘makes an olive an olive? A raw olive, directly off the tree, is basically inedible due to an excruciating bitterness. Birds are even noted to swallow them whole to avoid the taste. Deuropin, a safe and natural, but totally unappealing component, is the reason.Curing acts like fermentation and results in a decidedly more palatable treat.

Many people also do not realize that olives like to ‘breathe‘.While in storage they should be turned over frequently in their brine, and never confined to an airtight sealed container for the very same reason.

Another surprise (or not) is that olives get their distinctive qualities from their genetics, their region (and the climate and soil thereof); how they were harvested, and how they were cured. Consequently there are hundreds of olives with unique personalities.

Unsurprising however is that olives and cheese make the best of partners. Classic pairs include Castelvetrano with pecorino, and the Amfisso and sharp, crystal-laced cheddar. At La Jolie one of our all-time favorites is the very versatile, torpedo-shaped Picholine olive. It is wonderfully crisp and crunchy, with a tart, nutty, hint-of-anisey flavor… and perfect with a wide variety of cheeses! But with so many options, where does one start? I always say that cheese is an adventure, and likewise is the advice for olives. Begin… and have fun!

….and as Popeye often said to Olive… “I’ll take all on one at a time!!”