In My Olive Kitchen

We have a number of very old – almost ancient – olive trees on the property. Many of them date back more than a hundred years, part of the landscape history in our part of Athens. They tell a story of a time when the area – now entirely urban – was predominantly olive groves and pasturage for sheep and goats. Much to my chagrin, the fruits these venerable trees produce are unusable for extracting oil or for curing as eating olives. The trees are strictly ornamental.

trimmed_olive_tree

However….a few years ago, to celebrate a significant anniversary of our institution, a Royal personnage dedicated a newly planted baby olive tree here on the grounds. It is now grown to maturity which you see in the photo above as it is being trimmed. This year it produced lovely olives. Members of staff were out picking the fruit from the downed branches and from the tree itself. Their efforts resulted in about 4kg of perfect purple-black Kalamata variety olives that were delivered to the kitchen.

picked_olives

Naturally, everyone had advice on how to cure them from grandparents, uncles, cousins, fathers-in-law…friends and family throughout Greece. Advice ranged from water soaks changed daily to prolonged baths of brine or vinegar (or a combination). Various lengths of time were touted for how long it takes to cure them. And, we had a lively discussion on the theme of “to slit or not to slit” the olives before curing.  We went with a compromise, soaking them in a combination of brine and vinegar, changed weekly. Half were slit and the other half left whole. The entire point is to leach them of their bitter oleic acid. I suspect that the slit ones will take less time than the whole ones, but the end result with probably be much the same.

olives_brined

We have many weeks (or months if you believe some advice) to go before they can be sampled. With all these olives, we are dreaming of future tapanade. Of course, a plain cracker would be nice to serve this olive spread on. On the principle of starting with a good recipe (that works well!), I remembered one that Sandra posted earlier – a sweet Spanish olive oil biscuit flavoured with fennel (Tortas de Aceite). What I produced was far from Sandra’s moreish biscuit. I took her basic oil and flour ratios (modified only a tiny bit) to create a savoury cracker. Also, from her recipe, the sesame seeds in the dough gave it a crisp texture, so they went in mine. Everything else was quite different and, all in all, turned out rather well.

* * *

seed_crackers

Olive Oil Seed Crackers

  • 190gr plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 25gr sesame seeds
  • 80gr olive oil
  • 75gr water
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 Tablespoons Poppy seeds

First, prepare baking tray by lining it with baking parchment. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

In a bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and sesame seeds. Add the oil and water. Stir until the liquids are mixed in. Continue mixing and kneading with your hands until a soft, slightly oily ball forms.

Place the ball on a clean, well floured surface and roll out until it is very thin (approx 1.5 to 2mm). Using a scalloped or plain round biscuit cutter, cut into crackers and carefully place them on the prepared tray. Re-roll the scraps only one time for more crackers. 

Pricking them with the tines of a fork can help keep them flat and not puff up, but this is an optional step.

Beat the egg white in a separate bowl and brush each round. Sprinkle on poppy seeds. Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Place on rack to cool.

* * *

But, until those olives are ready, the crackers are perfect for so many other toppings – cheese, pรขtรฉs, smoked fish mousses and other spreadable delicacies – just in time for the upcoming holidays. And speaking of holidays, instead of a traditional pumpkin pie, a pumpkin cheesecake was made in my kitchen as a nod to American Thanksgiving.

Sorry – no photograph as cheesecake was devoured before I thought to photo even one slice! But, in compensation, here’s a photo of Greek pumpkins from a post last year. The pumpkin purรฉe in the pumpkin cheesecake came from a similar specimen.


No olives or olive oil used in the cheesecake recipe! Meanwhile, I’m wondering were we can plant more olive trees.

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out other IMK bloggers, each of us writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month, now hosted by Liz @ Bizzy Lizzys Good Things who has graciously taken up the challenge (and before her by Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef) to list all of us IMK bloggers. For earlier IMK posts, see the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who, began the IMK phenomenon and until 2016 listed all of us IMK bloggers. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.

36 comments

  1. Olives on your doorstep, lucky you. I had a commenter attack me once for listing kalamata olives in a recipe. I don’t believe they had ever sampled a high quality kalamata olive, how else could you condemn them? Personally I love their meatiness and strong flavour and firm flesh, I’m just a tad jealous. Nice job re inventing the olive oil biscuits, I’ll have to give it a try your way. Thanks for the shot out, you are always so kind!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, wow, wow, your olive trees! Just wow. Thank you for the very kind shout out and happy December to you xx

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  3. Kalo Mina! Enjoyed your last post on Greek white varietals. I can’t keep up on my own.
    Congratulations on your olive harvest.The staff must love your dedication to all things Greek.

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  4. It must be a thrill having your first olive harvest then doing the brining and pickling. The Italians are the same- everyones’ grandmother and auntie has the best recipe. How to choose!. that jar looks so tasty. Sandra’s biscuits look very tasty- must give them a go. If you plant another olive tree in the garden, you may need to stay there for another 5 years to get your first decent harvest.

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    • Surprising how many people came up with ways to cure them, but in the end, they were all variations on the same theme. There is always a relative back in the village somewhere who offers advice. I really like Sandra’s original biscuits and my savoury variation turned out well enough. I needed a plain cracker to go with a variety of toppings.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ooh i love the sound of those biscuits Debi. Our olive tree is over 20 years and has fruited about 3 times! it had the biggest amount of flowers ever this spring due to the rains I think; now there are some olives teensy tiny ones growing so I hope to get enough to pickle again come Autumn. it is very confusing all the different recipes but i do it very simply in a salty brine, changing the water every couple of days. it is so very satisfying to do one’s own!

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    • Hi Sherry, glad to hear from someone who has actually done the olive brining. We are changing the brine every week since it is really a messy job to do and we have other things to get on with in the kitchen. So far, it has worked out well enough. First taste was a bit bitter and as predicted, the slit ones were less so than the ones we left whole. A few more weeks should do it for the slit ones.

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  6. Forty years ago, I bought olives at the Vic Market. I asked for advice on how to marinade them, but people were vague about how to go about it and the experiment was a bust. Those were pre internet days, Debi. Your post inspires me to give things another go.
    In the meantime I’m going to try that easy peasy looking Olive Oil Cracker recipe. For a wonder, I have all the ingredients in my pantry.

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    • It is amazing at how may variations are out there on how to cure olives. And, of course, there is different advice yet again for green olives versus black olives. We will see how they go. Just tested them and they seem to be on their way to being ready to eat, but the slit ones are very salty. Perhaps we will need plain water soaks after they are cured in order to get rid of the salt! The olive oil cracker is very easy, but as with all things like this, it can be a bit fiddly. Hope it works out for you.

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  7. I’ve attempted curing olives, Debi, but have never been satisfied with the results. I wish freshly picked olives were more readily available here but since they all must be shipped to reach us, it’s not easy finding them. This time of year I begin to sound like a broken record, constantly repeating, “Maybe next year … ” ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Do tell – what kind of results did you get? I wonder if they were a bit on the salty side? This is what we are experiencing at the moment. They are perhaps half way through curing by now, but I may have to soak them in water just to desalinate them. I think that I will preserve the finished product in red wine vinegar which will give a better flavour to the olive.

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  8. I’ve never considered the intricacies of olive curing, but it sounds daunting. I’ll settle for purchasing the best deli olives I can find, and salute you for your efforts. Looking forward to final taste test reports. Meanwhile, the olive oil cracker recipe looks delish.

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    • Olive curing is both easy and difficult – just let the little guys soak for a long time and then the bitterness is leached, but the ins and outs of how and in what to soak them is complex. I’ll learn from this year’s experience and perhaps next year it will be a little easier. Will report on the final taste when ready!

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  9. My husband would be jealous, he loves olives. I keep trying but still just don’t like them….but I won’t judge people who enjoy them! Yeah for the pumpkin cheesecake. I myself am not a huge fan of pumpkin pie either, there are far too many other pumpkin desserts to spend my time and calories consuming. I made pumpkin cheesecakes in a jar this year for Thanksgiving and they were a hit. Happy Holidays!

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    • Love pumpkin cheesecake, but I also like the pie. I’ve even been looking recipes on pumpkin strudel and maybe even translate this into a pumpkin version of the Greek treat bougatsa (a phyllo pastry filled with custard). Must be sparing – all those calories as you mentioned! Happy Holidays.

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  10. How interesting that you live in Greece! We keep our boat in the Ionian and sail extensively every summer, having visited 42 greek islands so far. I’m just watching a TV prog about Rick Stein visiting Thessaloniki, enjoying some lovely greek food….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Debi love your beautiful olive trees and so wonderful to be able to enjoy the fruits too. We planted two small olive trees but with our climate it will not produce olives… so I am told. The olive seed crackers look delicious ๐Ÿ™‚

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