Elies se Armi – Greek Pickled Olives from my Thirroul Seaside Garden – Global Wanderings in My Kitchen

I’ve been to Greece  a few times and just loved the food, Spanokopita. Tiropitakia, Dolmades, Tzatziki, Taramasalata, Souvlaki, Greek Roasted Leg of Lamb, Cheeses (Feta & Haloumi), Saganaki, Garithes me Feta (Garlic Prawns cooked in Tomato & Feta Sauce), Baklava & of course the Olives.

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A while back our local Thirroul Bowlo Club eatery turned Greek for a while, when it wsa run by the husband of one my old school mates, Efti, one of the few Greeks in Thirroul in those days. We’d celebrated our wedding anniversary at their inaugural Greek Bazouki & Belly Dancing Night. It was a great night with Greek dancing, even more so to find that some of our old workmates, who are members of the Illawarra Greek community, as well as being friends of friends of Efti’s husband, had wandered up to Thirroul to help kick it off.

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So enthused by Greek foods, about 10 years ago, I’d planted an olive tree in the front garden of our seaside home on the NSW South Coast. We have a southerly exposure to salt laden winds so everything takes ages to grow – if they survive at all. The olive tree grew & grew – competing with the banksia’s that attract Sulphur Crested Black Cockatoos.

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We didn’t get any olives for a long, long time. And even if we had, I recalled the label on the little bush I’d bought said something about a caustic soda pickling method – surely there was something less nasty ? But most stories I’d heard mentioned the caustic soda method – really offputting.

Finally, 3 years ago we had lots of olives – not enough to press our own oil – but enough to bottle the olives themselves. By then I’d read a few more of my Greek cookbooks, and discovered caustic soda wasn’t necessary at all.

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So I used Elies se Armi, aka Pickled Olives, pp18-19 from the AWW Easy Greek Style Cookery book – similar to Tess Mallos’s Greek Cookbook p98,Angeline Kapsaskis’s Greek Commonsense Cookbook p16 & Bourke’s Backyard Factsheet – ( full instruction details here ).

The tedious part is making the 2 lengthwise cuts to the stone in each olive, gloves are recommended if you don’t want your hands dyed a burgundy-purplish shade. I mentioned the olive slitting to an ABL (Australian Born Lebanese) work mate and she muttered about her father’s bottling of olives – not something she wanted to do again too often. Another Macedonian workmate confirmed that the brine pickling was definitely the way to do olives & mentioned that it is common to not get a good crop every year.

Altogether, it really is too easy – all you need is olives, water, salt and, at the end, olive oil. Change the water every day for 5-10 days, depending on whose recipe you follow, then leave them in the dark. I leave them for months, rather than opening after 5 weeks as some recipes indicate. Contributions to the Manisa Turkish website tend to agree – some suggesting keeping them in the dark for 6 months before opening.

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My husband’s bottled olives from last year’s crop were checked by our nephew James, the Apprentice Chef, & he was very impressed that we bottled our own. James liked their flavour too. We’d emailed a copy of the technique to cousins down on their farm in Oaklands, near Corowa in southern NSW. Ann had been a high school cooking teacher, but had left to manage the farm finances. She is deadly with removing avocado stones with quick knife stab – but hadn’t worked out how to pickle the many olives growing on their trees in the Home Paddock kitchen garden. But she was very keen to try it out.

So we’re finding that we get reasonable crop every second year – depending on how many we lose to storms and alas, the sulphur crested black cockatoos & galahs who seemed to have enjoyed this year’s crop.

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Postscript for @misssafet

Psari Lemonato from Tess Mallos Greek Cookbook – which I believe is out of print – possibly in her Complete Middle East Cookbook – recently reprinted

  • 1 whole fish for baking (1kg)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • salt& pepper
  • 500gm potatoes very thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  1. Clean fish & slash each side in 2 or 3 places
  2. Sprinkle inside & out with some of lemon juice & season with salt & pepper
  3. Place in oiled baking dish
  4. Arrange sliced potatoes around fish & pour remaining lemon juice over potatoes & fish
  5. Season potatoes with salt & pepper – pour olive oil over contents of dish
  6. Sprinkle with oregano then cover with foil
  7. Cook at 180-190oC for 40 minutes (check after 30 minutes)
  8. Remove foil & continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until fish & potatoes are cooked
  9. Serve immediately with steamed spinach, green salad and/or Greek salad

Serves 4-5

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