Legend has it that the first olives to be cured were those that fell into the Mediterranean Sea. Olives were also the first fruit to be transferred from tree to table and have been harvested for thousands of years with the ancient preserving techniques of both salting and drying used to ensure they were able to be consumed throughout the year.
In ancient times, the removal of bitterness was facilitated by alkaline solutions. In rural Italy, the alkalinity was provided by using ash and diluting this in water, along with salt, to remove bitterness from the olives. In Greece, the traditional way to remove bitterness is to start with fresh water and add increasing amounts of salted water every day to achieve a final 8 per cent saltwater solution.
Today, in order to remove the bitterness, olives are industrially processed or “fermented” in much the same way as is done for cheese, salami and wine. The following are the most common methods used in Europe to accelerate fermentation:Heat - Hot water is added to emulate an ‘incubator’ and quicken the fermentation times.Sorbic Acids - Used to control yeasts and moulds during the fermentation process.Dry Salt Curing - Dousing the olives with rock salt to increase the removal of bitterness.Sodium Hydroxide or ‘Lye’ treatment - A process where the olives are ‘shocked’ for up to 12 hours and then have to be rinsed and re-brined for immediate consumption.
Every single one of our farmers and suppliers are our partners and they become a part of our family. Whether it is our tomatoes from Italy or our olives from Australia, we absolutely insist on working with families and business operators with the same values as we do.
Being true to your roots and true to your ingredients is the mantra that we live by so we make it our business to know where the food comes from and exactly what happens to it every step of the way through its journey to the plate. The result is a winning recipe every time.
The Lubrano family, the people behind the trusted Sandhurst brand, have been enjoying table olives for decades and while their own process is not quite as ancient, their association with slow curing olives goes back to their traditional Italian origins.
Nonna Geraldine and Nonno Vince both remember slow curing olives by hand in their respective villages. Vince used the same techniques to cure olives to sell in Australia after the couple created the Sandhurst brand three-decades ago.
Today, as one of Australia’s most well-known families involved in the food processing business, Sandhurst has decided to return to the traditional idea of slowly curing olives without the use of sodium hydroxide, heat or sorbic acids. Accelerated processing times in Europe means it takes as little as 2-3 months for olives to cure, Sandhurst’s use of the slow curing process means that it will take up to six months for delicious Australian olives to properly develop. Slow-curing Australian olives also means their colour will not be bright green or dark black as the acidity levels are not as intense as those used in the European process.
While the result is a slightly more bitter olive, that means it contains more valuable antioxidants, known as polyphenols, which help fight free radicals in our bodies. The Australian olive is generally picked in March or April by mechanical harvesters and will be slow cured soon after as the long, cold winter is ideal for slow fermentation in Australia. As the weather starts to cool, the olives will start to be slow cured in constantly replenished salt water – meaning these olives will be ready around October – just in time for summer where ideally they would be used in salads, on charcuterie boards or in light summer dishes.
Sandhurst Fine Foods has been working with the best Australian olive farmers for more than a decade to bring these beautiful local olives to market in a way that makes them unique and world-class. We hope you enjoy eating them as much as we enjoy creating them. Vince Lubrano, founder of Sandhurst states “I would back Australian Olives 100% - we can produce anything in this country and be better than the rest of the world.”
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