Spanish olive region

Andalusia, Spain's Olive Region

Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in Europe. Much of Andalusia is planted with olive trees that stand like soldiers on parade and seem to stretch endlessly over the hillsides. 100km north of Malaga, near Prigo de Cordoba, there are seven motorhome service areas, Aires. These area service para autocaravanas are located in the heart of this fascinating and sometimes breathtaking olive growing region. Motorhome and campervans can park overnight for free at these Aires. Olives are harvested from November to January and this is an ideal time to visit the groves in a motorhome or campervan, as the weather is warmer than the UK and you can observe the pickers on the hillsides, sorting, weighing and processing the freshly picked olives.

Olive trees are often used in ornamental planting schemes, meaning the olives are left to ripen and fall. Unfortunately, eating olives off the tree will leave a bitter taste in your mouth; to make them delicious they need to be processed or 'cured'. Green fruit ripen and turn black, but there are many olive varieties, each with their own taste. Follow the recipe below and you'll enjoy the fruits of your labour.


Olive preparation:

Step 1: Making them edible
a) Wash your fresh black or green olives, they must be firm and un-bruised.
b) Slit black olives along their length with a knife. Green olives do not need slitting but should be slightly crushed with a mallet.
c) Put the olives in a glass jar allowing any juice to drain off.
d) Prepare enough brine for the first 12-hour soak. Mix 10 parts cold water to 1 part salt (preferably pickling salt or good quality salt, but not sodium reduced salt).
e) Soak the olives in brine for at least 3 days, changing the brine every 12 hours. Weigh the olives down during the soak to ensure they are all submerged.
f) Taste the olives, if they are too bitter continue to soak them. After their soak, drain them and then rinse in fresh water.
g) Optional drying stage: Dry with kitchen paper and place the olives on an open tray in a fridge overnight. It is important that the fridge is free of smells that could taint the olives.

Step 2: Flavouring the olives
Ingredients: 4 cloves of garlic, mixed dried herbs, red/white wine vinegar, salt, water.
a) Thoroughly crush 4 cloves of garlic along with dried herbs to taste. Add them to a clean glass jar, then fill the jar with your prepared olives as above.
b) Make up a liquid of roughly 80 per cent water, 15 per cent wine vinegar and 5 per cent salt. First dissolve the salt in the wine vinegar (red for black olives and white for green), then add the water.
c) Pour this liquid into the glass jar covering the olives, fit lid to jar, then store in the fridge for 10 days. For best results weigh the olives down so submerged or top with a 1cm layer of olive oil.
d) Taste the olives in 10 days time. Bitterness should now be minimal. Salinity and acidity can be adjusted at this point. Simply drain the liquid and replace with a liquid of your own ratios but remember both the salt and vinegar act as preservatives.

Step 3: Enjoying your olives
Ingredients: olive oil, garlic, herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary), lemon juice, lemon rind, orange rind.
a) Once the olives have reached the required taste in step two they are ready to consume. Remove a portion from the jar and dress with olive oil and some of the suggested flavours above.
b) If this is all too much, or your olives have spoiled, open some olives you have bought from a shop, dress and devour.

WARNING: If at any time olives become mouldy or soft or bad smelling DO NOT EAT.