Sunday, June 27, 2004

Trying New Things: Olives

Olives are one of the foods I’ve avoided for a very long time. They pop up from time to time in a salad, pizza or other dish ordered in a restaurant, but I typically pull them out before I start eating and pass them over to someone who appreciates them. I don’t think I had ever tried anything other than the basic green and black grocery store varieties until this evening.

My grocery store has an olive bar, so I decided that this would be a good way to sample several varieties without spending too much. Many of the olives at the olive bar were unnamed large green olives with various stuffings, others were labeled “assorted”, and unfortunately quite a few had no label at all. I picked out a small selection – I went for the ones that had a specific name and then picked one of the stuffed ones as well. I ended up with Niçoise, Picholine, Moroccan oil-cured, and one stuffed with sun-dried tomato. I had a total of 8 olives and they cost me a whopping 24 cents!

When I got home, I poured myself a glass of wine, grabbed a big glass of ice water, and began my taste test. Obviously the most noticeable thing about olives is that they are salty. In fact, to my unpracticed palate they are so salty that it is difficult to differentiate one from another by taste. The two characteristics that I could distinguish were the degree of saltiness and the texture. The Moroccan oil-cured olive was very soft and incredibly salty – pretty awful. The Niçoise and Picholine olives were similar to each other in saltiness, but the Picholine olive was much firmer than the Niçoise. The large stuffed olive was somewhere between the Niçoise and Picholine in texture, but similar to both in saltiness. I preferred the Niçoise and Picholine olives over the others.

After I finished eating the olives, I read a little about them. I found out Moroccan oil-cured olives are considered bitter and better for cooking then snacking. Maybe I should have done a little research before I went to the olive bar!

The olive bar is nice in that it allows you to buy a selection of different olives at low cost and, if desired, in small quantities, but the downside is that you know very little about what you’re getting. So now they question is, am I ready to commit to a whole jar of olives? Guess I could always put them out for company…

left - Picholine, top middle - stuffed, bottom middle - niçoise, right - Moroccan oil-cured


Reid said...


I tend to like both niçoise and kalamata olives myself. And yes, as you've stated they are quite salty as they are most often cured in brine.

Cathy said...

Reid - I think I'll have to try a few more varieties and include Kalamata. Maybe the more I eat them the more I'll like them!

Claudia - you should see my brother's kitchen! It is the tiniest thing I've ever seen. It's beautiful, though. I'm visiting him this coming weekend and may be posting a photo later.

santos. said...

hi there

i'm a newcomer to your blog; it's very charming. i just wanted to say that i am not an olive fan, either (in fact i've had allergic reactions to some), but there is one olive i love--sometimes i even crave it. it's the green bella di cerignola olive from italy, you'll know it immediately when you see it as it is a monstrous-sized thing, a beautiful shade of sagey-jadey green, lighter than your average olive colour. it's a very meaty olive, not too salty, bordering on sweet. if you are going to spring for a whole jar, i'd recommend those. bella cucina brand has beautiful mixed olives in a herb-infused oil--if anything you can use the oil and admire the lovely bottle!

Cathy said...

Thanks so much Santos!

Thanks too for olive recommendations. I'm about to head out to the store and will definitely be on the lookout for these!