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Follow The Olive: Processing Table Olives

The aim of processing table olives, whether it be in a factory or in the home, is to produce a tasty  product from a fruit which, fresh off the tree, is too bitter to be edible.

Processes are classified as natural (or “untreated” in the trade) when debittering occurs naturally, as opposed to treatment with caustic soda for this purpose. Green olives are harvested and processed at a maturity stage just prior to fruit colouration, whereas in natural black olives, fruit are harvested at the ripe stage.  So-called “Black Ripe Olives” are treated olives, artificially coloured and preserved by pasteurisation. The traditional processes which give the tastiest products are those dependent on specific fermentation in brine under controlled conditions where preservation depends on a combination of the saline brine and the natural acid formed.

Most of the cultivars grown in South Africa can be pickled or cured, although those grown primarily for oil production are not normally used for pickling. Specific table olive cultivars are suited to specific processes.

Processing recipes include:

  1. Spanish / Seville style (treated) green pickling process;
  2. Greek natural black process;
  3. Kalamata process, a variant of “2”;
  4. Greek natural green process;
  5. American canning process;
  6. Greek dry-salted olives.

The following quality attributes are desirable in processed olives:

  1. Appearance: must be attractive and of an acceptably uniform colour, size grade and free of blemishes, leaves, stalks and any foreign matter.
  2. Taste: largely free from bitter glucoside found in freshly picked fruit, and having no bad aroma or flavour caused by incorrect processing techniques.
  3. Texture: They should be fleshy, having a relatively small stone, fairly firm to almost crisp, not hard, fibrous or mushy.
  4. Food Safety: They should have an adequate shelf-life, meeting local health requirements and international standards.

SA Olive introduces “FOLLOW THE OLIVE”

An in-depth look at the journey our beloved olives take from as early as being planted to the end of their life-cycle… being tasted and enjoyed! We look forward to sharing snippets of fun and fascinating information with you over the course of the year.

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