And, one of the wonderful things about living in Mafraq is our yard, in which grow five mature olive trees that produce good olives. Dear Husband, due to his great success last year of curing two gallons of olives, both green and black, has received the moniker "Abu Zaytoon" (Father of Olives). Even with rationing, we ran out of his delicious olives by June, so this year we begged him to prepare more, much more, than last year.
A couple local workers picked our olives one day last week, setting aside the best for curing. Dear Husband will have the rest pressed for oil. The first step is measuring--how many jars would we need to buy this year?
Next comes the sorting: black olives, large green olives with a little color, and smaller green olives.
The next step is the most time consuming: slicing three small slits in each olive. This process took Dear Husband about three evenings. Note the (new) coal/wood stove in the corner of our sun porch. We are officially country folk.
Dear Husband received all his curing instruction and advice from one of the workers who picked our olives. Jordanians have varying opinions on the best way to cure olives, but since this worker's advice yielded such good results last year, Dear Husband is following his instructions again this year. He used two different methods to cure this year's harvest: one method for the black olives and another for the green.
After slitting the black olives, Dear Husband salted them and put them in the sun, such as it is in early December. The salting was repeated for four days. After four days, he soaked the olives in water for about an hour to extract much of the salt, and packed them in jars with olive oil. The salting draws the bitterness out of the olives so it is possible to eat them now, though they will mellow further as they soak in the olive oil.
After the green olives are slit, they are soaked in water, which Dear Husband changed daily, for three days.
The green olives are now ready to be placed in jars of brine. Exactly how much salt do you put in the water for a good brine? The traditional measure: keep adding salt until an egg floats. That is 1/2 cup to 2 liters of water, but measuring cups are an American convention, so the egg float method is really best.
Dear husband also adds 1/4 cup white vinegar. Lemons, which Dear Husband plans to add a week into the brining process, can also be added at this point, as can hot peppers. The olives will be ready for eating in about five to six weeks.
Yislam 'idayk, Ya Abu Zaytoon! (God's peace on your hands, O Father of Olives)
Update: The olives have been pressed and the yield is considered low this year. A good oil yield is 16 % of the raw olive weight and this year the yield was 13%, so our 66 kilograms of olives yielded just over nine kilograms of oil. (1 kilogram = 2.21 pounds)