If I had to choose, I’d say fall is my favorite season. When I was younger fall signified the start of school which wasn’t always the most looked forward to events in my life… but it also signified new beginnings and change … aesthetically you can see and feel change all around; the changing of colors of leaves, the chill in the air or in my case no more plump tomatoes or other fresh garden vegetables. Since this post is about family food traditions I note the fall season from my parents’ home and discover how they welcome in the season. You might guess, pumpkin pies or roasted chicken with mashed potatoes (which I personally love) however, you would guess wrong in a typical Italian home. I wrote about the tomato jarring in the summer, zucchini flowers etc … now I write about OLIVES!
Green olives are not grown on trees in Massachusetts. Olive trees are found in hotter climates, such as California, Arizona and in Italy where the temperatures rarely drop below 40 degrees. My parents growing up in Calabria, lived amongst olive trees and as I am told used to pick olives all the time. In fact when they visit Calabria, they still enjoy doing it.
Since living in Boston, they rely on olives being shipped over in crates which is better than nothing. The process they set up is to hammer the olives individually, while another will pick the pit out. The olives are then set in buckets with water. The water is changed daily for about two weeks. This process makes the olives lose its bitterness and replaced with a smooth flavor.
The next process can go two ways. First, they will take the olives add in fresh sliced cherry peppers, slices of eggplant and garlic placed in a big terracotta (bowl). A block of wood is placed on top with a heavy rock or any heavy object on top to basically crush them. Once deemed flat enough which can take a couple of days, excess water is removed and then preserved in jars with salt.
The other way to serve is simply fresh after the two week period with tomatoes or by themselves with some oil and oregano. Either way it’s a great antipasto.
This process reminded of a friend who came over years ago and saw my father hammering away at the olives one by one. You can just imagine how time consuming it is. She said, “He is preparing each olive individually? Wow … now that is love!” She added, “You better appreciate each and every olive!” She’s right … if you take time in your life to do things that you enjoy, especially preparing food to share with your family and friends … I’d say that a bowl of pressed olives is love!