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SPANISH OLIVES FOOD & COOKING ARTICLE

Spanish olives . . . have you discovered yours yet?
by Orce Serrano Hams

Spanish olives are rated amongst the best in the world and Spain produces almost 30% of the world's olive oil and is responsible for almost half of the world's olive production, not surprising really as some of the best varieties of olive are found in Spain with a substantial quantity coming from Andalusia.

With so many to choose from, have you found your perfect olive?

Spanish olives

Whatever the variety of olive, they each have their own unique but distinct taste and having lived in Andalusia myself for four years and not really enjoying any olive, I was determined to try and find the one for me. Spain produces a wide variety of olives due to its diverse landscape and climate resulting in olives which range form sweet and mild to peppery and bitter. There are eight main varieties of olive which are fantastic for eating, there are in fact many more types of Spanish olive, about two hundred and fifty in total but we will concentrate on the most common table olives.

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The Manzanilla and Queen olives are probably the most well known and popular olives.

  • Manzanilla Olives
    The Manzanillas are grown almost everywhere in Spain and especially Andalusia. They are small and tender and are considered the perfect martini olive, they are also ideal for stuffing, the most popular stuffing being anchovies.
  • Queen Olives
    Queen olives are large, plump and fleshy and are grown in the Seville province of Andalusia. They are perfect for stuffing as they are large and fantastic in aroma and flavour and go really well with peppers, almonds or seafood.
  • Picual Olives
    The most important variety of olive is the Picual and is grown in the provinces of Jaen, Cordoba and Granada in Andalusia. This olive represents almost 50% of Spain's olive production and is delightfully peppery and fresh.
  • Hojiblanca Olives
    The Hojiblanca olive is a pure delight and the first olive I tried that I immediately liked due to its intense and diverse flavour - it tastes like lots of olives in one it is peppery, then fruity with traces of almonds and even grassy hints. The name comes from the leaves, hoja meaning leaf and blanca white and from a distance these trees look vary bright and almost silver.
  • Arbequina Olives
    Another of my recommendations is the Arbequina olive which comes from Aragon and Catalonia and is Spain's best loved olive. The fruit is small and delicate with lovely diverse flavours ranging from smoky and mild to earthy and fruity with hints of artichokes and even apple.
  • Verdial Olives
    The Sierra Magina in the Jaen province of Andalusia is home to the beautifully dark Verdial olive which is quite large with a distinct fruity, yet spicy flavour. I would recommend this olive to a seasoned connoisseur as it is robust and commands respect.
  • Picolimon Olives
    The Picolimon olive is a great table olive with its juicy fullness and fresh citrus flavour. They are round and fleshy and go really well with nuts and dried fruit as an aperitif.
  • Picudo Olives
    The Picudo olive with its lovely unique pointed end like a peak which is from where the name is derived, is generally found in the Andausian regions of Malaga, Jaen, Granada and especially Baena in Cordoba . It is a sweet and fruity olive with soft juicy flesh and makes for a popular table olive in both the green and black varieties.

Spanish olive trees

Generally olives are harvested whilst still green and as a result they are not yet fully ripe and if eaten raw are very hard and bitter. Before bottling, they have to be 'cured' and this is where the fun begins when choosing your favourite type of olive. Initially the preparation for bottling begins with washing and then storing in brine for a long period of time to remove the bitterness and soften them.

During the curing process of green olives, the brine is often prepared with different herbs and aromatics for an exciting but subtly flavoured olive. In some cases families who have been curing their own olives for generations use carefully guarded secret recipes which results in a totally unique olive.

Personally I would recommend the Hojiblanca, Picolimon and the Arbequina olive, as they have the most appeal for me both in taste and texture. They are delightful on their own but if you get them preserved in different herbs such as garlic, oregano or thyme and even preserved in lemon, then they come into their own.

There is an olive out there for everyone, it's just a matter of tasting as many as you can . . . until you find yours!

Buen aproveche!

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© Copyright 2008 Orce Serrano Hams - www.orceserranohams.com

Published 07 May 2008

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