Tuesday, 4 January 2011

O-live, o-live O

Cailletier, that's their name. Pronounced ky'-te-ay.

I leave Rog to make a joke about redundant French letters.

Anyway, that's the variety of olives we have. Three years ago my choir gave J. and me an olive tree. It came in a big plastic tub, too heavy for us to carry. We ended up by rolling it on its side to the place where we wanted to plant it. For the first two years it did very little, except just be, but last spring it brought out a heavy blossom of tiny creamy white flowers, and in due course these turned into fruits.

The olive harvest here takes place in November or December. For other varieties the technique is to spread sheets or nets beneath the tree and then beat the branches with long sticks so that the ripe olives fall. Some use tractors to knock the tree violently, and I believe there are machines that shake the tree so hard that the olives fall off.

Not ours, though. Ours are so small, and our tree, although growing fast, is so little, that they're hand picked. I spent some time trying to discover what variety our olives are, because they really are tiny, not much bigger than peas. Cailletiers aren't that common, not nearly as common as the much bigger Lucques or Picholines, which mostly end up in local oil-presses. If we sent ours to the nearest press, we would end up with not much more than a thimbleful of olive oil, just about enough to flush an earwig out of a child's ear.

Cailletier olives are sometimes called niçois (i.e. coming from Nice), because traditionally they feature in salade niçoise along with hard-boiled egg, anchovies, tuna and various greenstuffs often including rocket and spinach leaves. And dressing, of course.

The flavour is wonderful, but you have to work hard to bring it out. First they have to be soaked in several changes of water for a few days. Then they have to be steeped in brine for a period of several weeks. So by mid-February our first home-grown olives may be ready.


Vicus Scurra said...

Can I be the one to make a joke about "Olive's fall off"?

Dave said...

I am afraid I am unable to find anything witty to add.

Christopher said...

With great pleasure, Vicus. Go ahead.

Christopher said...

Dave: Sorry. Comments crossed in the typing. (And it's sometimes wise to keep you and Vicus apart.) Please don't worry about this problem. We all need time to recharge our batteries. Plus I expect you've had an interrupted night, with your mind and attention in Sydney rather than the S. of France. If anything occurs to you during the day, you'll find the door's always open.

Z said...

And after all, there so rarely is a child about with an earful of wig when you want one. A wise decision to eat the olives instead.

Spadoman said...

I love olives and seem to be the only member of the family that does. Of course, being Italian, I cook with and use olive oil, imported from the Motherland. Extra Virgin, First Cold Pressing. Sclafanimis the trade name.
But I don't know what kind of olives are used in this magnificent oil. You put me to shame.
Of course the climate I live in does not lend itself well to olive trees.
I'll eagerly await the report in February. The salad sounds divine and would do well with some kind of artisan bread.


english inukshuk said...

this reminds me of a very entertaining read, "Extra Virgin"

hope those olives are tasty when they're ready!

Rog said...

Has Mr Sarkozy had a vasectomy?

Christopher said...

Z: This is so, but I also remember olive oil being used to relieve childish earache, probably otitis media. A very terrible thing in the middle of the night, when morning seemed never to come.

Spadoman: J. does all our cooking in olive oil, but you put us to shame in insisting on the purest Italian only. Ours is a common-or-garden mixture blended from French/Spanish/Italian/Greek olives. Still, very little cholesterol dares show its head round the door.

IE: Thanks. I'll keep you posted.

Rog: There have been rumours about Carla, but they've never come to anything. Could this be the explanation?

Z said...

I, too, remember when olive oil was bought in very small bottles from Boots the Chemist.

letouttoplay said...

I was always told that olives are an acquired taste. I can't remember when I acquired it but I must have passed it on to my children in the milk or something as they all seemed to be born with it. They cost us a fortune in olives.

Anonymous said...

Soaking olives in brine (horribly over salted) is a misunderstood cruet according to ‘certain extant recipes'. Try soaking in proper ex-extant recipes of urine (of a sort of integral fruity-salt preferably of goat or mountain sheep) for 6-month or more to taste. Your olives will prove to be ‘the fruit’ that Adam partook when He was so betoken of Eve in that olivine garden paradise where a true heavenly fruit was a representative olive offered by a sweet horned goat and not a tart viper which spat poisonous saline venom?

Christopher said...

Glad to see, Blue, that you've had occasion to highlight the dyslexic U/B confusion which has dogged biblical exegesis since Auraham came to Canaan from Br of the Coldees.