BENNY’S ITALIAN OLIVES

Benny’s Italian Olives

Benny is a friend, with an Italian heritage, whom we hadn’t seen for a number of years. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that our paths crossed again. We were needing someone to look after our golden retriever Ruby and home while we went overseas. And who should put his hand up for the job – Benny.  
So I am not even sure how we got on the topic of olives, but we did and being Italian I thought he would have to know how to preserve olives and sure enough Benny did.  So in honour of our dear friend Benny who taught me something simple yet so delicious I have called this recipe Benny’s Italian Olives.

Now there is a method to Benny’s Italian olives and it’s very simple with not much work involved and lets face it who doesn’t like simple. I suppose like a lot of Italian food, simple and delicious is how I would describe it. Now let me tell you this Italian recipe for preparing the olives is by far the easiest way and the most tastiest and for this reason I want to share this recipe with you.
Now I’ve put it into measurements because a handful of something may be a little or a lot depending on the size of your hand. And it could be the difference between your olives working out or failing.

What you will need is a 2 handled bucket and I picked mine up at the hardware  store for around $4.00 You will also need a large plastic bag or bags (depending on the amount of olives you are going to preserve, oh and some salt. Sea salt is what I used the first time I made these Italian Olives, then this time I added some smoked sea salt which gave it a depth of flavour and let me say I could have sat myself down and eaten all those olives just the way they were without bottling them.
This batch I added some dried blood orange, garlic infused olive oil, chilli and fennel seeds. There are so many flavour combinations that you can use for these Italian olives. Check out some of the flavour combinations below.

Benny’s Italian Olives

4 Kilograms Black Olives
1/2 – 3/4 cup Sea Salt OR Pink Himalayan Salt

METHOD

Rinse olives under cold water and drain. Put onto tea towels to drain off any excess water.

Cut a slit into each olive (this allows for bitterness to be drawn out easily).

Put olives into a large plastic bag or bags now poke lots of holes into the base of the plastic bag using a wooden skewer so that excess moisture can drain through the plastic,  besides keeping the olives clean, also helps sweat. Put the bag or bags into the bucket. Do not stack bags on top of each other.

Now this is the funny thing.  Put the bucket into the boot of your car.  Yes, you read it right! Benny’s idea and let me say it works a treat. So every morning before you head off for the day, drain out the liquid from the bucket and put it back into the car – make sure you give the bags a bit of a shake to mix the olives around a bit.

After a week taste an olive. If it is still very bitter then put it back in the car and continue the above process for another week. Sometimes you may need to add a little extra salt and by that I mean no more than 1/4 cup.

When they are fine, remove from the plastic bags and put into the kitchen or laundry sink (make sure you sink is clean) and rinse. Bring a jug of water to the boil and pour over the olives to rinse off any excess salt, then drain.

Now what I like to do to make sure there is no water left on the olives is to put the olives into baking trays in a flat layer.  Turn the oven onto 140° C (120° C fan forced). Put the olives into the oven  for up to 30 minutes, giving them a shake every 10 minutes. Cool the olives in the trays.

JAR PREPARATION

Wash jars and lids in hot, soapy water, rinse and set aside. Put empty, wet jars in oven at 120° C (100°C fan forced) for 30 minutes.  Put lids in saucepan with enough water to cover and bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes.

FILLING JARS

In a medium saucepan heat 2 litres of olive oil over gentle heat. To this add your flavourings. I added 1/4 cup garlic infused olive oil, 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, 1 bay leaf and  1-2 tablespoons chilli flakes and gently warm through and you should be able to put your finger in it, so please make sure it’s not boiling hot. Exercise caution. You just want in warm enough for the spices to impart some flavour.

Using a pair of tongs remove a jar from the oven. Half fill the jar with olives giving it a couple of taps to help settle the olives down. At this stage I added a slice of dried blood orange (because thats what I had an abundance of) to the inside wall of the jar then continue to fill it to the top with the olives, tap the jar to settle the olives and make sure they are packed in fairly tight, allowing  about 1- 2 cm space at the top of the jar.

You can add chilli flakes, fennel seeds or any other flavourings you like. Using a ladle, ladle in the warm olive oil, wipe the rim of the jar, making sure you leave at least 1 cm headspace and that all olives are covered with oil, put lid on and tighten. I like to tip the jars over and leave for 5 minutes. 

Continue until all the olives are bottled, allow them to cool then label the jars and pack away in a cool and dark place like a cupboard.  Olive oil doesn’t like sunlight and it is so much healthier for you than vegetable oils. You can leave them plain if you don’t want herbs  and spices added.

If you put the jars in the fridge the olive oil will solidify, so I  keep mine, once opened in a cool cupboard. If it is hot in the room you can store the opened jar in the fridge, just remove and let it come to room temperature or zap in the microwave for a few seconds.

NOTE– If unsure of seal being reached then put the jars in a large saucepan with a folded tea towel in base and cover with cold water, bring the water to the boil and boil for 10 minutes. Carefully remove from the water and allow to cool. 

I also used dried citrus and dried herbs.

When you have eaten the olives, don’t throw away the olive oil. Add it to salads, vegetables or cooking for an olive taste.

I had 7.5 kilograms of olives and this filled 14 x 500ml jars and 5 x 275ml jars. (this is a guide) 

FLAVOUR SUGGESTIONS

  Garlic, thyme and rosemary
  Chilli Flakes, garlic and oregano
  Cumin, bay leaves, garlic and paprika
  Garlic, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and chilli
  Dried orange, fennel and bay leaves
  Lemon Rind, garlic and oregano
  Garlic, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and dried orange
  Plain 

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