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Can you say “Kalamata”?

by Sava

The Kalamata olive is named after the city of Kalamata in the southern Peloponnese, Greece. They are large, oblong olives, with a soft flesh and smooth purple skin. They are considered the most delicious of olives. They must ripen on the tree, not be harvested while green. In fact, they are  most often hand-picked to avoid bruising. Different from other olive trees, the Kalamata olive trees have leaves almost twice the size of others. These olives also produce exceptional olive oil which is one of the most common products of Greece. The regions most well known for the fine quality of their oil are Kalamata in the Messinia region, Sifnos in the Cyclades, and Mitilene.

When we moved into our house in California I was pleased to have an olive tree in our front yard because the shape is always so lovely. As I met some of my parents’ friends from church, I found out I could actually cure the olives following an ancient Greek method to get rid of the bitterness, if I wanted to take the time. At first I was reluctant since it sounded like a really BIG deal and I had three small sons who kept me very busy as well as a job. Some years went by before I decided to give it a try. The recipe was simple. Cut a slit in each olive, place in a large container, and cover with a brine of 1 cup salt to each quart water. Keep olives submerged and every week empty the water and start over. Do this for a month or so. Then rinse olives thoroughly, place in a large jar and fill the jar with an olive marinade consisting of 2 parts olive oil to one part vinegar, oregano, garlic and a bay leaf. I couldn’t resist adding a few slices of juicy lemons, too. The olives keep for months and actually improve in flavor with the marinade. Granted, these were not Kalamata olives, but they were excellent!
I did this for a few years and the only thing that stopped me was how many olives I had cured and how long they lasted. Now I am sad to say our olive tree is slowly fading. I haven’t seen any olives on it for a few years, but I can still taste the ones I cured and marinated. Even though I now buy my Kalamata olives, I’m very glad I tried it and succeeded!

Besides putting them in a REAL Greek salad, I love serving them in colorful bowls with feta cheese and pita bread for appetizers or as part of a meal! Stay tuned for a recipe from our book called Chicken With Red Peppers and Kalamata Olives. It’s on page 128 but I will be posting it for those of you who don’t have the book yet. Don’t forget you can order it right here!


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