Picholine Olives - A Staple In Cocktails
Picholine, Not Italian - When we think of olives we usually think of Italy, and Picholine olives definitely sound Italian, but in truth they are grown in France. Olives are grown mostly in a Mediterranean climate, with Italy and Greece being the largest producers, while Spain and Morocco are also known as sources of fine olives.
Olives are also grown in the United States, mainly in California and are also grown commercially on a rather large scale in South America, mainly Chile. There are black olives, green olives, sweet olives, smoky olives, bitter olives, you name it. An aficionado could easily tell from the taste of an olive its country of origin, if not the specific locality it was grown in.
Though initially from in the south of France, in Provence, Picholine olives are now grown in many countries in the world, including the United States, Israel, and Chile. The somewhat tubular shaped olives are considered by some to be the premier olive for cocktails, which appears to be its major use aside from the production of olive oil.
Picholine olives are normally harvested in the late fall and are harvested when still green, at which time they have a distinctly fruity taste and are used in cocktails or as a table olive. A later harvest, when the fruit is a bit sweeter, supplies Picholine olives for the production of olive oil. The flavor of Picholine olives, whether harvested earlier or later, is described by most as being quite delicate, and a little on the salty side. Picholine olives are also claimed to be excellent for ones health and for the skin, though whether they are markedly better than other types of olives for the purpose is uncertain.
Other Common Types - The olive most seen in the supermarket, especially the olive stuffed with pimento is usually the Manzanilla olive, which is a Spanish olive, and is sometimes the olive of choice for martini lovers, though one could argue until the crack of dawn, or the crack of doom, as to whether Manzanilla olives or Picholine olives make the best martini. Mission olives, which are black olives, are the ones usually sprinkled on pizzas, and are a kind of workhorse olive, not having the delicate flavor of some of other types.
Making Picholine Hors d' Oeuvres - Olives have a rightful place in the world of hors d'oeuvres, and the Picholine olive with its delicate flavor is certainly no exception. To prepare Picholine hors d'oeuvres, a small amount of olive oil is heated in a small skillet, sliced garlic cloves are added, cooked for about 2 minutes, then set aside. A thinly sliced red onion in a small amount vinegar, is then brought to a simmer over medium heat, the garlic is added, along with slightly crushed peppercorns and a couple of bay leaves, and the mixture, while still quite warm, is poured over 2 cups of Picholine olives which have been sitting at room temperature. The olives are allowed to marinate for several hours, after which they may be served or kept refrigerated in an airtight container until ready for use. Whatever proportions one uses, and one may choose to experiment, onion, garlic and olives, with a touch of pepper, makes for a tasty appetizer.
There's an old saying that to acquire a taste for olives, one has to eat at least a dozen of them. What the saying doesn't take into account, and it's an old wives tale anyway, is that the different varieties of olives vary widely in taste. Start with one of the more bitter varieties and 12 olives may not make an olive lover out of anyone. Start with Picholine olives and half a dozen might do the trick.