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Culinary Central

The Cooking Enthusiast's Guide to Olives

May 10, 2013 Emily Murray Seattle 0 Comments

The Cooking Enthusiast's Guide to Olives

Olives! People who love olives can't get enough of them. They will travel great distances to find an olive bar with a mouth-watering variety of them. Olives are perfect because they can be eaten out of hand or they can be used in cooking where they lend that tiny little burst of flavor in a stew, a casserole or a pasta dish. There are so many ways they can be used, that’s why many techniques are using in cooking school or at a local school for culinary arts. A cook will find that meals that call for olives are largely Mediterranean or Middle Eastern. Because that’s where olives grow the best. The trees, some of which can still bear after hundreds of years, need heat, abundant sunlight and bad soil. Like wine grapes, olive trees need to suffer.

There are basically two types of olives and this is one basic taught in cooking school. There’s the green olive, which is picked before it's ripe and the black, which is allowed to ripen on the tree. Most olives are oil-cured, brine-cured or dry-cured. This means they spend some months either in oil, brine or salt. To get the pit out of an olive, simply put it on a cutting board and whack it with the flat of a chef’s knife or a cleaver. The pit will either pop right out or the skin will split around it and make it easier to remove. 

Here are some favorite olives:

Niçoise
These are tiny, briny little gems are from Nice, of course. They’re allowed to ripen on the tree and are the stars of salade Niçoise.

Kalamata
These are the lovely, tart, purplish black olives from Greece. When a recipe calls for olives, Kalamatas are very likely to be the olive of choice.

Arbequinas
These small, delectable olives are from Spain.

Cerignola
These olives are huge and green. They are so big that they can be stuffed with whole roasted garlic cloves, almonds and other goodies.

Manzanilla

These are the only olives an olive connoisseur should probably deign to buy in a bottle. They’re the familiar green olives that often come stuffed with pimientos.

Gaeta
These purplish black olives often come glistening with oil. They are meaty and just a touch bitter. Some of them are dry cured, which makes them wrinkled and gives them an especially robust flavor.

Hondroelia 
These are fat, meaty olives that are often found in barrels of brine. They’ll make your lips pucker. 

Nyons 
These French olives resemble Niçoise olives, but they’re wrinkled from being cured in salt.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Seattle. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Seattle offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Seattle for more information.

Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at www.chefs.edu/disclosures.  Le Cordon Bleu® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation. Le Cordon Bleu cannot guarantee employment or salary. Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.

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