Thursday, December 2, 2010

Heirloom Foods: Our First Taste of Homemade Calabrian Olives

Bland, But Grand:  Our First Taste of Homemade Calabrian Olives, December 1, 2010.
My husband warned me not to title this blog post "Bland But Grand" because nobody would read it.  I have to say I already regret listening to him because it's a perfect description of my homemade olives.

I started making Calabrian-style olives a month ago and we've been waiting to try the finished product ever since.  I got the recipe (and the raw olives) from my friends Lisa and Louis, and they sent amazing instructions on how to do it, including video tutorials!  I figured I couldn't go wrong.  But my initial results were disappointing.  We tried them the day I jarred them, but they were so tasteless that we declared them "unfinished" and decided to let them fester in their juices for a while.

Ever since I published the complete recipe, people have been writing to me to ask how my olives turned out.  I've been embarrassed to admit that my husband said they "tasted like cellulose".  When I finally told Lisa that I thought I'd done something wrong, she said that when made correctly, Calabrian olives are "bland, but grand" and have a subtle flavor.  So we decided to try them again.  

My version of Calabrian olives have been soaking in a mixture of garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, garlic, and olive oil for a little over three weeks.  I figured that with this aromatic combination, they certainly must have absorbed some kind of flavor.  They did!  My Calabrian olives are indeed "Bland, But Grand".  Louis suggested that I spice my olives conservatively, which seemed like a reasonable idea, but now that I've tried the finished olives, I think I'll experiment by adding different amounts of each ingredient to each of my six jars of olives.  I may even give a few of these "experiments" as holiday presents.  It will be like a Russian Roulette of olive-curing.  Who knows which batch will be great and which will be fit for the dogs.  (Sorry dog-lovers.)  I don't think I have the nerve to give them to Lisa and Louis.  But they wouldn't want them anyway.  They already have over 70 pounds of their own Calabrian olives stashed in their refrigerator.


  1. Hey, bland but grand is okay!! And, I agree that you should add some other stuff to the jars and see if they improve! Bland would be great for me, I think! Olives aren't my most favorite things, but the ones I like the best are the ones that don't have the most distinct flavor!

    As for my Swedish dishes, some weren't that great, but you have to make the first attempt and then carry on from there! I think you should give yourself a pat on the back for even trying!! You're the quintessential recipe endeavorer! (is there such a word???)

  2. Thanks, Shirley. I appreciate the words of encouragement. I'm so used to eating super-salty olives that I have to re-adjust my taste-buds to appreciate them. And I think you're right. Calabrian olives might be perfect for people who think they don't like olives!

  3. Add salt.
    Also, we do not have 70 pounds of olives. I think we only made 65 pounds and some of those were given away.

  4. I'm sure Louis said you had "over 70 pounds" when I last talked to him. Even if you only have 65 pounds, that still sounds like plenty. I already added salt to some and they were really good. I'm thinking of trying different kinds of salt. I've been using kosher salt so far.

  5. double up on the red paper flakes in on of your "experimental jars. Also...unless you consider this cheating...try adding chili oil to the olive oil. - Celia

  6. Celia- I think doubling-up on the red pepper flakes is a good idea. I may even triple up! And now that you mention it, I may take out a smaller sample from my large jar to try the chili oil. As long as you promise not to tell a Calabrian...