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Old 10-05-2014, 04:26 PM
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What do fresh olives not in brine taste like?

I've never tasted green or black olives not in brine, my favorite is kalmata but it is impossible to find uncanned or unbrined olives in my experience.

Were olives always brined? How did people eat them in say biblical times?(there are references to olive trees in the bible for example).
Old 10-05-2014, 04:35 PM
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Bitter. (Ask me how I know. )
Old 10-05-2014, 04:36 PM
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Uncured olives are exquisitely bitter.
Think of the most bitter thing you have ever tasted, and multiply it by 10.

I'd be happy to let you taste some off of my tree, if you don't believe me.
Old 10-05-2014, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
Uncured olives are exquisitely bitter.
Think of the most bitter thing you have ever tasted, and multiply it by 10.
I don't have a clear recollection of exactly how bitter, my experience having happened when I was a kid. But I don't remember them being as bitter as biting down on a gall bladder.
Old 10-05-2014, 04:47 PM
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Terrible. I stopped along a road in Spain and picked a couple off an olive tree. Nibbled at one and immediately spit it out. Nasty, bitter flavor.
Old 10-05-2014, 04:51 PM
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Well, I haven't had the pleasure of chowing a a gall bladder, so I can't compare.
I only know that raw olives have a uniquely "grassy" bitterness that is very difficult to wash out of your mouth. You can taste a small remainder of this bitterness in oil-cured olives, but it's been so attenuated that the bitterness is pleasant.

Last edited by beowulff; 10-05-2014 at 04:51 PM.
Old 10-05-2014, 07:06 PM
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Nobody has mentioned the astronomically bitter taste of fresh, raw olives yet?

Unbelievably, mouth-puckering bitter. And nasty.
This is a food that definitely needs human intervention before ingesting.
Old 10-05-2014, 07:36 PM
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I'm going to have to say "bitter."
Old 10-05-2014, 07:47 PM
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How did they ever (and when) figure out how to make olives edible, then? Oil, I grok. But all the steps and fermentation?
Old 10-05-2014, 08:09 PM
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Same, for what it's worth, with acorns. Raw, they taste like hell, but when soaked and/or boiled, they taste kinda okay. A bit dull, but vaguely nutty. (Well, they are nuts, after all.)
Old 10-05-2014, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by No umlaut for U View Post
How did they ever (and when) figure out how to make olives edible, then? Oil, I grok. But all the steps and fermentation?
Olives are way simpler than something like Cocoa.

1) - You try an olive off of a tree, spit it out, and vow never to do that again!
2) - There's a terrible famine.
3) - You are walking along the ocean shore, and you see some olives which are lying there in the brine, after being washed down in the rain. Since you are starving, you decide to eat them anyway. Hey!, They're good!
4) - You put two and two together and start experimenting...

Last edited by beowulff; 10-05-2014 at 08:17 PM.
Old 10-05-2014, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by No umlaut for U View Post
How did they ever (and when) figure out how to make olives edible, then? Oil, I grok. But all the steps and fermentation?
The oil can be/is pressed out without going through all the steps- apparently the bitter compounds are water-soluble.

My guess is that the fermentation/salting was one of 3 things:

1) There is some other bitter/poisonous food that's already treated in a way similar to olives present in the Mediterranean, and someone just adapted the process on a whim.

2) Someone decided to go ahead and try to salt/pickle olives on a whim, because hey- we do it for other stuff.

3) Total accident- olives left in salty container, rainwater, etc...
Old 10-05-2014, 08:28 PM
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I might go with #2, Bump. Perhaps related to garum or similar?
Old 10-05-2014, 09:23 PM
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As a friend of mine likes to ask: who was the first person who ever drank coffee...a second time! (For millions, once is more than enough!)
Old 10-06-2014, 03:22 AM
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The simplest way to cure olives is pretty simple: you hang them in a cloth sack with an equal weight of salt for about a month. The salt leaches out the bitter substances. This type of olive is often called "oil cured," although no oil is used in the curing process (they are usually stored in oil, but that's not the same as curing).

I don't know how this process was discovered. It's possible that olives grown for oil were packed in salt to preserve them until the oil could be extracted, and that someone found that olives stored this way became edible.
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Old 10-06-2014, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by No umlaut for U View Post
How did they ever (and when) figure out how to make olives edible, then? Oil, I grok. But all the steps and fermentation?
Some people think that the first olives eaten were those that had fallen by the shore in tidal pools (soaking in seawater), and this gave the idea of brining.

Curing in seawater is a traditional method in Greece. Not all olives are oil cured or fermented.

Last edited by Hello Again; 10-06-2014 at 09:58 AM.
Old 10-06-2014, 10:49 AM
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I actually tried an uncured olive right off the tree last winter, while in Spain during harvest season. I took a small bite just to see what it was like. The initial taste, for about one to two seconds, was fruity and pleasant. And then... well, it's been pretty established what the next taste and lingering taste on the tongue was like after I spit it out.
Old 10-06-2014, 12:44 PM
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My theory:

Step 1: You learn that pickling in salt can preserve food for long periods of time.
Step 2: You learn that pickled foods can remain edible, even though it may radically change the color, texture, and flavor.
Step 3: You learn that, sometimes, you prefer the pickled flavor over the raw flavor.
Step 4: Olives off the tree taste terrible. Let's try pickling them, and see what happens.
Old 10-07-2014, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
As a friend of mine likes to ask: who was the first person who ever drank coffee...a second time! (For millions, once is more than enough!)
This reminds me of a line I heard years ago:

"It was a brave man who was the first to eat a hot pepper. The second man was even braver."
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