During our final visit to our family home, my sisters, Sonnie and Jan, and Gary and I took a half day away from the packing and cleaning to explore what used to be our greater back yard. The plan – to deliver more goods to St Vincent de Paul in St Arnaud, to have lunch at the cafe “Country Delights” which is housed in an historic building opposite the beautiful Botanical Gardens in St Arnaud, and finally a drive to the wineries in nearby Moonambel.
So with the morning’s work complete, we loaded up Jan’s car, climbed in, and headed off. First stop, and we unloaded yet another stash of goodies that hopefully will find a new home via the St Vincent de Paul Op Shop.
Next stop “Country Delights. What a beautiful old building, I think it used to be the offices of what was once the Kara Kara Shire, and was constructed in 1902 using locally made bricks. The interior was beautiful, the high timber ceilings, the windows and the artwork on the walls.
When Jan’s cup of tea arrived, we all admired, and fell in the love with the beautiful cup she was given to pour her tea into (I think that we all wished that we, to, had ordered a cup of tea). I can’t remember what everyone had for lunch, but I know that I had a bowl of brown rice topped with beautifully cooked veggies.
Well sated, we piled back into the car and headed to Moonambel – well that was the plan… but, as we were passing through the hamlet of Stuart Mill, we saw a sign to “Pebble Church”. A quick, shall we turn around and go find it? Yes! Jan turned the car around and off we went! We drove for what seemed like ages, turning onto roads we really didn’t need to – there being no more signs… and, having driven in what must have been a large “S”, we finally spotted this amazing church. Small, in the middle of nowhere, and just beautiful.
We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the church, peering through the viewing window in the front door, and taking quite a few photos.
Finally we decided to head off to Moonambel, where we had planned to visit two or three wineries. Taking a much more direct route than we took to the Pebble Church, we passed wineries and olive groves on the way.
Arriving at Summerfields, where they have cellar door tastings and a great array of locally made goods, including preserves and olive oil, we took our time browsing, with each of us purchasing some of the products available. I purchased a small bottle of first cold press olive oil and a bottle of rosé. I must tell you that the only reason I purchased the rosé was because I fell in love with the label – isn’t it just beautiful…
We then chose to head back home rather than visit any more wineries, it was getting late and we really had had a wonderful afternoon out.
Later that evening, as we sat chatting with our cousin, Chris, we mentioned our little outing and how much we loved visiting the Pebble Church. Surprised that had never heard of it, I quickly started searching the internet. It was then that I discovered that it had recently been purchased by the community at Carapooee. Out of curiousity, I’ve since taken some time to do a little more research – It is amazing what a small community can achieve.
Sitting here as I write, I reminisce… it was from an olive producer in Moonambel that my late mother received the recipe, that I have shared previously, for curing olives at home.
- Freshly picked olives
- Salt see notes
Place the olives into a bucket and cover with cold water to wash them. Strain the olives from the water, retaining both the olives and the water. Measure the amount of water and note the quantity, this will allow you to calculate how much brine you need make. You can now discard the water.
To make your brine add the same amount of fresh clean water that you noted in step 1, to a large pan together with 100 g/3.5 oz of salt for each litre/2 pints of water. Bring the brine to boiling point, stirring to ensure that the salt has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool until it is cold. Pour into food grade bucket large enough to hold the olives and the brine.
Make three slits in the skin of each olive with a small, serrated knife while turning the fruit between the thumb and index finger. (Discard any blemish or bruised fruit) The cutting allows the brine to penetrate the fruit thus drawing out the bitterness, and at the same time preserves it.
Put the cut olives immediately into the brine.
When all the olives are in the brine place a clean plate on top of the olives to keep the them submerged. All olives must be under the liquid.
Each day, pour the liquid away and replace with fresh brine. Repeat this washing process for about 12 days for green olives and about 10 days for black (ripe) olives until the bitterness has nearly gone. The best test is to bite an olive. When the bitterness has nearly gone, the olives are ready for the final salting.
As in step 1, strain the olives from the brine, retaining both the olives and the brine. Measure the amount of brine and note how much. You can now discard the brine. Measure that quantity of clean water into a pan and dissolve the salt, this time 200 g/7 oz of salt for each litre/2 pints of water. Bring the salt water preserving mixture to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside until it is cold.
Place olives into clean jars and then pour the salt water brine over them until the fruit is completely submerged. Top up the bottles with up to one centimetre of olive oil to stop air getting to the fruit.
Seal and lable.
Store for at least 12 months in a cool cupboard.
- When curing olives, you should:
- Use only fresh, unbruised fruit.
- Make sure your utensils are clean.
- Only use glass, stainless steel, unchipped enamel or food grade plastic containers.
- Never use copper, brass, iron or galvanised utensils as they react with the olives and taint the flavour.
- Ensure that the olives are covered in brine and when placed in jars, the brine should cover the olives and then 1 cm of olive oil to prevent any air getting to the olives (the olives float in the brine) .
- Wipe the rim of the jars well to ensure a good seal.
- When choosing your salt, choose a good quality salt such as sea salt, rock salt or kosher salt. Always check to ensure that there are no additives such as thickeners and iodine.
- Apparently this recipe is an old Greek recipe and is very easy.
- Olives can be pickled when green or black.
- Black olives are just ripe olives and are used for pickling and also pressed for olive oil.
- Green olives are used for pickling. In season some of the olives begin to change towards black, at this time it is fairly safe to pick the green olives for pickling.
- If the tree is large, place cloth sheets on the ground and strip the fruit from the tree with your hands or with a rake with suitably spaced prongs. Collect the fruit from the sheet, removing odd stems and leaves as you go.
- When you want to use your olives:
- Drain off the brine.
- Place the olives into another clean jar, or bowl and fill the jar with clean, cool water.
- Cover and leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours, taste them, and if still too salty repeat the process and return to the refrigerator for a further 24 hours. (The plain water removes some of the salt from the olives).
- At this stage you can also add your favourite marinade, if you wish.
- This brining method eliminates the need to use a caustic soda solution that is used in commercial processing of olives.
- Olive Producer (name un-known), Moonambel, Victoria, Australia
- Preserving the Italian Way, P Demaio, 2006.
- Maggie Beer’s Autumn Harvest, M Beer, 2015, Penguin Random House.
- Smoking, Curing & Drying Meat & Fish, TT Turan, 2015, Stackpole Books.
- The Preserving Book, L Brown, 2010, Darling Kindersley..
Until next time…
- Home Cured Olives
- The Pebble Church