Crushed olives preserved in oil are a typical autumn recipe beloved in southern regions. In Calabria, for instance, they are referred to as olive ammaccate (bruised olives) and are an essential pantry staple for every farmer. To prepare them, we use the finest olives that our olive trees provide. They should be harvested when still green but perfectly ripe. If you don’t have olive trees, you can acquire green olives from local farmers’ markets, aiming for organic and locally sourced produce. The recipe process is relatively simple but rather lengthy, requiring some patience and methodical approach.
In this article, we’ll guide you through all the stages of preparing crushed olives preserved in oil with a photo gallery, from harvesting to the preservation process.
The Olives to Use
The preparation of crushed olives begins with olive harvesting. It’s crucial to choose the right moment to pluck them from the tree. Our main advice is to gather them when they are mature but not overly so, before they start turning black. Once they reach this stage of ripeness, they are no longer suitable for this recipe. Therefore, it’s important not to wait too long. On the other hand, you shouldn’t be too hasty either; olives that are too immature are not suitable either. A trick to determine if the olives we cultivate are ready for our recipe is to crush a few of them beforehand. If the pit comes away easily and doesn’t stick to the flesh, then the olives are ripe enough. Once harvested, preferably by hand to avoid damaging them, select the best ones and discard any damaged or small olives. For the recipe of crushed olives, it’s recommended to use medium to large-sized olives. In our recipe, we’ve chosen olives from the Carolea variety, widely spread and appreciated in central-southern Italy.
Crushed Olives in Oil: The Recipe
Crushing the Olives
Let’s move on to the first phase of the recipe: crushing the olives. After washing and drying them thoroughly, you can start crushing them. For this task, you can use a large smooth stone or a classic meat mallet (you can find one here). Position yourself on a solid surface and tap the olives on a cutting board. Apply the right force when crushing; the olives should remain open yet intact, and the pit should not break.
After crushing, remove the pits. This step is more laborious and requires a lot of patience. It’s advisable to work as an assembly line, with some people crushing and others (about twice as many) removing the pits. Another suggestion is to work outdoors or in a place where oil stains on the ground won’t be an issue. To avoid getting your clothes dirty, consider wearing a kitchen apron. Some people prefer using latex gloves to keep their hands clean. We worked without them, and at the end of the task, our hands were indeed dark but soft and hydrated.
Debittering the Olives
Once the olives are crushed and pitted, you move on to the next step: debittering. Green olives are quite bitter and need this process to be sweetened. This step is delicate yet relatively straightforward. Place the olives in a container, preferably a terracotta one. In Calabria, traditional farmer containers called salaturi are used—cylindrical amphoras, spacious and sturdy. The container (which can also be plastic or glass) should be filled with clean water up to the level of the olives. It’s crucial to ensure the olives always remain submerged in the water, or they might turn black. To keep the crushed olives submerged in the water, you can use a weight, which can be a simple plate.
The weight will keep the olives always covered in water. The olives need to stay in the liquid for a period ranging from 7 to 10 days. The water should be changed twice a day. Only through this process will the bitter taste be eliminated from our crushed olives. To determine when it’s the right time to remove the olives from the container, you can taste one. During the first few days, the olives are still quite bitter, but after around 5 days, they will suddenly become sweeter.
Pressing the Olives
Once the necessary time has passed to remove the bitter taste from our crushed olives, it’s time for pressing.
First, drain the olives using a simple colander. After that, you’ll need a small press.
Pressing is crucial for the success of the preservation process, as it helps remove the water content from the olives. This is essential for preserving them for an extended period without issues.
It’s important to press them thoroughly, gradually tightening the press. Each time you tighten it, water will be expelled.
For this operation, we used a small press purchased online, of good quality and at a reasonable price (this one, precisely). This is a small-sized press, ideal for this type of preservation. It’s excellent not only for crushed olives but also for eggplants or zucchini preserved in oil. If you want a more professional and larger press, we recommend getting a wooden tool. These presses are usually used for producing wine. You can find it here. After thorough pressing, our crushed olives will be significantly dehydrated.
Seasoning the Crushed Olives in Oil
Now we come to the final phase of our recipe: how to season our crushed olives preserved in oil.
- Crushed, debittered, and pressed olives (quantity as desired)
- Wild Fennel
- Hot Chili Pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Dried Tomatoes (optional)
As you can see, we haven’t specified quantities. The right amounts will depend on the quantity of olives you start with and especially your preferences regarding flavors and spiciness. You’ll also need glass jars and pressers to keep the olives compact.
Prepare the chopped garlic, diced chili pepper, and fennel inflorescences separately. In a glass container, arrange the crushed olives and press them. Then, add the rest of the ingredients to the olives, along with the salt and extra-virgin olive oil. In our recipe, we included dried tomatoes as well, to add some color and an original touch. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients; the oil will season the olives and infuse them with the flavors. For the salt, the recommended amount is 50g per kg of crushed olives, but you can adjust this according to taste. The same goes for garlic and fennel; we, who enjoy strong flavors, preferred to be generous. Now you can start filling the glass containers. It’s advisable to use jars with a wide opening. Our technique for filling the glass jars involves the following steps:
- Fill the bottom of the jar with oil
- Add the crushed olives and the rest of the ingredients
- Press gradually as the jar fills
- Add oil to fill to the level of the olives
- Place the kitchen presser
- Seal the jar without overtightening
For proper preservation of the crushed olives, it’s important that they are well-covered with oil. You’ll need about an extra 1 cm of oil above the level of the olives. We mentioned sealing the jar without overtightening because, after a day, it’s advisable to open the jar and check if the oil level hasn’t dropped too much. If it’s too low, top it up with new oil, and then seal the jar firmly. For vacuum-sealing, you can boil the jars for about 15 minutes in a large pot. Place some cloths at the bottom to prevent breakage. The jars should be stored in a cool, dry place. Once opened, the jar should be kept in the fridge and consumed relatively quickly. Always make sure that the oil level doesn’t drop below the olives.
How to Enjoy Crushed Olives in Oil
To fully enjoy the crushed olives in oil, allow at least fifteen days to pass. This will allow all the flavors to meld together nicely. These prepared olives are perfect for consumption during the winter months, to accompany our aperitifs, or even to be enjoyed on a slice of bread in front of the fireplace.