Home-brined Olives – Part 1

on Food, Home  

Lining our verge are three big olive trees. I’ve watched the small green fruit get bigger and darker, until the branches started drooping with the weight. I often use the branches as part of a foraged table arrangement, but only recently decided to have a go at brining olives for eating. The homemade version is inherently slow, taking several weeks to become edible, but I’m told the wait is worth it.

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My (very fruitful) olive tree
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Freshly picked ripe olives

I didn’t always love olives – as a kid I picked every speck of the little black olives off my pizza. But as an adult I love saltiness and unmistakeable flavour, on their own or as part of a dish. I hadn’t thought about how olives were prepared until a friend picked one, tasted it and exclaimed at the bitterness. After some research I realised that it takes time and work to transform the bitter fruit into the form I’m familiar with. Commercially sold olives usually cut through this process through the use of lye (caustic soda), then treated with various other additives to improve the uniform look and shelf-life.

For those who don’t want to mess around with lye, the process of removing the bitterness and preserving olives is a slow one. Opinions and methods vary by region and from person to person – estimated times seem to vary from 3 weeks to 3 months, with different levels of effort required. Hedging my bets, I’m trying out three different approaches in the hopes that at least one will work (hopefully the easiest one!).

After picking and washing the olives I sorted through each one checking for blemishes or signs of bugs, making a shallow incision on two sides. Cutting (or smashing) olives is supposed to help the bitterness seep away more easily. I chose not to remove the seeds, because who has time for that?

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Soaking olives, fully submerged

I then put them all into a big plastic cake container, covered with tap water and weighed down (rather ingeniously I thought) by the container insert. The olives need to be completely submerged through the entire lengthy process, so need a covering to prevent them bobbing up to the top.

Each morning I drained the container and replaced the water, for a week. At this point my olives were smelling much more familiar and the incisions slightly expanded.

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Olives after soaking and changing the water each day for seven days

I boiled a pot of brine, adding enough salt to be able to float an egg. After cooling, I decided to try out a few different curing options hoping that at least one of them will be successful.

The first jar of olives I filled with brine and topped with olive and a sprig of rosemary to keep the olives from floating. This one will sit on the shelf for at least 3 weeks (some say more like 6-8 weeks) before they will be ready. At this point I’ll be able to drain, wash and marinate them.

The second I filled two-thirds with brine, the rest with olive oil, rosemary, bay leaves and chilli flakes. This should take a few weeks on the shelf as well. Although this is the easiest option, I’m not sure the end result will be too salty or remain too bitter!

For the last jar I decided to follow Laura’s method of soaking in brine, changing weekly for anything up to 8 weeks. I have my fingers crossed that the more neglectful methods will be fruitful, but I feel pretty confident that at least this jar will turn out edible.

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Jar #1 – storing in brine topped with olive oil and a rosemary sprig for 3-6 weeks

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Because I didn’t put them in the right order for photos – jar #2, jar #1 and jar #3, left to right

Now we play the waiting (and re-brining) game. I’ll report back in a few weeks once these bitter fruits have developed into salty delicious olives ready for eating.

Bread In Common, Fremantle

on Food  

The Boy and I headed to Fremantle on a sunny Sunday to say goodbye to most of my book collection at Elizabeth’s Bookstore – but first, brunch. As far as brunch locations go, Bread In Common in Fremantle is an odd one. Part restaurant, part bakery it serves incredible house-made bread and excellent coffee. The rest of the seasonal menu is a bit more surprising.

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I usually avoid scrambled eggs as it’s easy for them to become rubbery, but these were the softest and fluffiest I’ve had. The sausage dish was beautifully savoury, offset with the crunchy fennel and slightly sweet sauce, which we mopped up with bread until the plate was clean. The white sourdough bread however was the star – freshly baked, soft and filling.

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The pricing is on the steep side even for Perth, but if you’re stuffing yourself with bread (and why wouldn’t you at a place called Bread In Common?), a couple of well-chosen dishes go a long way. The restaurant itself looks spectacular – carefully constructed for exactly the right amount of raw, rustic and trendy. I really wished they’d turned up the lights though – you wouldn’t have known it was a sunny morning outside.

I’m rarely in Fremantle these days, but next time I’m around I’ll have to drop by, even if it’s just to grab a loaf of bread.

 

Bread in Common
43 Pakenham Street, Fremantle WA 6160
(08) 9336 1032
Sun – Thurs: 10am – 10pm
Friday – Saturday: 10am – late

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Going forward

on Life  

I’ve always struggled to define what this blog is about, because it shifts so much – from a place to share my art to describing life as a freelance designer, chronicling my travels overseas, reviewing and making food, and lately to being very much a personal blog.

Obviously this hasn’t really been very good for grabbing and maintaining an audience, but that was never the point – I think perhaps even if no one ever read it, ChiGarden has been a place of exploration and growth for me both as a designer and a writer, and that’s been enough. But with this latest iteration of the design I’ve had a think about what I want this space to be going forward – for the moment anyway – and let that guide my personal musings posted here and bring it all together.

Here’s the plan

The past few years I’ve wanted to write more about minimalism, simplicity, slow living, sustainability and ethical consumption, but I’ve shied away from it as an overarching theme for ChiGarden because I didn’t feel confident in my knowledge about these things or my ability to write well about them. I’m still not really confident, but hey – the journey is the interesting part right? None of us are perfect, but flawed people are so much more interesting to read about anyway.

There are a lot of minimalism bloggers out there, but I think they all have something unique to offer. Some follow minimalism to the conclusion of owning only what they can carry on their back as they explore the world; others focus on finding the perfect (monochrome, it’s always monochrome) capsule wardrobe, or relate the trials of maintaining minimalism whilst being a parent. Some are purely instructional, others intensely personal and introspective.

As for me – this blog will remain mainly about my personal experience, but I’ll try to relate things back to the values (more on that later) where I can. I’ll be writing about minimalism from my own perspective – as someone who is child-free, not terribly fashionable, doesn’t have a ton of money to spare, struggles with taking on too much, loves food, is very lazy and trying every day to make the better choice. It’ll still be lots of travel, food, random thoughts, books and wardrobe notes, but hopefully a bit more cohesive and with some helpful stuff thrown in.

If you’ve been reading all this time (over a decade, and I know there are a few of you), thank you! I hope you’ll stick with me in this current version of ChiGarden.

If you’re new, looking to simplify your life and see how another person is going about it – welcome! I hope you’ll find what you’re searching for here.