Marinated Fresh Olives

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We love olives but are wary of the chemically saturated commercial products available. The solution is to cure our own the way it had been done traditionally in Italy. On the drive to Cromwell to collect olives we passed through beautiful, and often contrasting scenery, as one does when travelling in New Zealand.   We stopped several times to admire the amazingly blue Clutha River. Normally rivers are colored muddy brown and the color and clarity of this river was quite thrilling. Then we passed by Cromwell where we once again stopped to look at the reflections of the mountains (one snowy peak in the background) in the water.  In the distance tantalising, snow covered, mountains stayed just out of reach for close up pictures. The olive grove belongs to Bill and Helen Dunbar and is on  the shores of Lake Dunstan.  The lake and the snowy mountain tops are visible from everywhere, from the cleverly  laid out open plan  house and presses, to the trees when one is picking. The business markets fresh pressed olive oil which, once we got home, we compared with our favorite imported Italian brand and we are happy to report that it came out tops. There is much to be said for a fresh olive oil from good olives and carefully pressed and bottled. See the website


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Bill and Helen invited me to pick my own olives – an unexpected bonus! The last time I had the opportunity to pick olives was in Italy in the Marche on the farm of an old friend, and then again in my friend Lino’s back yard (one tree only, but what a harvest!).  We picked about 60 Kg, a mix of eating and pressing olives  – thank you Bill and Helen.

Recipe for Curing Olives 

The olives I picked were Picholine, Frantoio and Leccino. Leccino and Frantoio cultivars are the principal raw material for Italian olive oils from Tuscany. Leccino has a mild sweet flavor.  Picholine is grown in Southern France and is a green, medium size, eating olive with a nutty flavor. I am going to cure them all for eating purposes and will try a few different recipes to make it all more interesting.

Picholine –  I have about 40 kg of Picholine and will make 15 Kg in the following way.

Wash and submerge olives in clean cold water with lemon juice of two lemons as well as the lemon peels. Replace the water and lemon every day for five days. Now crush the olives with the bottom of a bottle, but do not destruct the fruit. Submerge again in clean water with lemon juice and peels and again replace water and lemon every day for five days. Drain the water well and pack the olives in glass containers. Ad a quarter of a sliced lemon and one crushed garlic clove per 5 liters. Make enough brine solution of 100 g salt per liter of water to cover all the olives. Bring the brine to a boil, let it cool for five minutes only and then pour the hot brine over the olives. Make sure all the olives are covered. I have plastic grids that fit tightly into the bottles and these keep all the fruit under water. Now add a thin layer of olive oil to seal the product and immediately seal the jars tightly. Store in a cool  dark place for three months before consuming.

Apricot Tart in Winter

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We had a glut of lovely apricots during summer (not from the garden, but from a local farmer) and I preserved quite a few for use during winter. Yesterday I used some of my stash for a pie and got a thumbs up from the household, even from the grand kids who, as a rule, do NOT touch their lips to any “new” foods.

Winter Apricot Tart

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees

Any sweet pastry recipe will do for the case.  I make a  short crust pastry dough without eggs, using butter, sugar and flour, baked until golden.  Line a  300 X 60 mm round spring form cake tin, you can also use a  pie dish (in my case) and press the moist dough up the sides of the tin and pat down the rest of the dough on the base. Add the filling when the crust is cooled slightly.


500 g preserved apricots

225 g sugar

225 g butter

100 g flour

4 eggs whisked

orange zest

1 orange juiced

vanilla essence or vanilla bean paste

Mix everything together well and pour into pastry case. Bake for 40 minutes at 200 degrees. Glaze the tart with  home made apricot jam

I am going to try the same recipe using preserved pumpkin, in place of the apricot, next week.



Preserved Fruit

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With a glut of fresh fruit available during summer I try to preserve as much as possible for the winter months. Space is at a premium so I do not have room for lots of canned or frozen goods. The best way for me to solve the problem is to vacuum seal the fresh cleaned fruit and then to pasteurise the pouches in a hot water bath.  Different products are processed at temperatures and times specific for the product. After pasteurisation the sealed items should stay fresh in the pantry for a few seasons, although we use everything in winter and start again in summer!

Celery, Leeks, Fennel and Potato Recipes

I harvested celery, leeks, fennel and potatoes this week. As usual the question is how to put my harvest to good use without using the same recipe twice. I have a picky household that does not tolerate the same dish twice in one week so here are my efforts so far:

Crunchy Celery, Fennel and Apple Salad 

1 bunch of celery chopped in to bite sized pieces. Keep the leaves for stock making.

1 apple cut in small pieces

1 fennel bulb shaved thinly

1 orange – 1/2  juiced and 1/2 cut in bite sized pieces

salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything in together.  You can change the quantities to suit your taste as it is hard to get this one wrong. You will have a pale looking salad so liven it up by sprinkling the dark green fennel fronds, cut decoratively, over. The trick is to prepare and assemble this salad just before serving, any delay causes the apple to discolor a bit. 

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Celery, Leek and Potato 

8 tablespoons of olive oil

500 g peeled potatoes cut in pieces

1 head of celery, stems only, keep the leaves for stock making

1/2 lemon juiced


Use a heavy pot with a lid. Put the olive oil and celery in and add water until the celery is covered. Cover the pot and boil until the celery is softened about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and cover the mix with water again. Add salt and lemon juice. Cover the pot and boil until everything is tender and no liquid barring the oil is left (this is important). Serve hot or at room temperature. I used it as a side with the week end barbecue but the dish is robust enough to  eat as a main with some bread.


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Crabapple is not a fruit I have had much experience with in the past, but my BIG crabapple tree at my new house in Dunedin has forced me to have a closer look at possibilities  regarding these beautiful little fruits. I have spoken with the experts, borrowed cook books from my neighbors, googled, took advice from bloggers and, after a lot of reading picked about 10 Kg of crabapples (still have about 30 Kg left on the tree). I have decided to start with crabapple jelly. Most references suggested throwing the pulp away after extracting the juice, but my “use all and throw nothing away” culture has compelled me to do something with it. So here is what I did

10 kg crabapples

10 liters Water

Boil for about 20 minutes

Separate the pulp and juice by filtering through cheesecloth and put the pulp aside


Heat the juice to boiling point and add  1 Kg  Sugar for every kg of liquid.  Simmer the mixture until it reaches setting point. Quickly, while still hot and before it gelatinises, filter again through cheesecloth and bottle. Seal bottles and sterilise in a boiling bath for 20 minutes. The clear, pink jelly sets beautifully and is delicious. I also made a batch where I added chili and rosemary to the original fruit – a very interesting and  tasty jelly resulted and I would probably make some more.


I have taken the pulp and put it through my Italian tomato pasata machine, which separates the skin and pips from the fine pulp. Heat the pulp to boiling point and add  1 kg of Sugar for every kg of pulp. Simmer the mixture until it reaches setting point. Seal bottles and sterilise in a boiling bath for 20 minutes. Beautiful and absolutely delicious jam.

The skins and pips I am using to make alpple cider vinegar. I think it will be good, as I normally use the cores and skins of ordinary apples to make this. I make large quantities of vinegar every year, of which I use most as is, but convert some to a mosto cotto


I have dribbled some fresh crabapples with honey and roasted them in the oven until soft, then served with home made custard – I never thought crabapples could taste so good, even though it was on the sour side where the rest of the household was concerned.

This week I am going to try making crabapple chutney and a  cider. After all that I should  still have another 10 kg of fruit left on the tree.

I find it strange that the big kereru pigeons do not eat the fruit  since they stripped the cherry trees and had a good go at the plum tree.


Nashi Pear and Celery Salad

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My generous neighbor has a large established garden with some prolific fruit trees. I got some of his nashi pears as a gift.  I love eating them like one would eat an apple, but for the rest of the family I had to combine the pears with some freshly harvested celery to make  a crunchy salad.  I had to make it again the next day, always a sign that the recipe was a good one!

1 large nashi pear

1/4 head of celery

5 cm of leek

1 1/2 table spoon fruit scrap vinegar

4 table spoons olive oil

salt and pepper

You can add chopped nuts and a bit of strong cheese if you have any on hand

Chop everything up and mix with a dressing made of the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve with fresh bread, and on a hot day, a glass of chilled Prosecco.

Apricot and (Dunedin) Rosemary Jam


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I am a bit of a jam tragic, if there is anything in abundance I need to make jam from it (or preserve it one way or another). I have a lot of apricots and Dunedin has a lot of rosemary. There are no genuine Italian food ingredients to be had over here, apart from all this rosemary. It grows in every garden, cascades down garden walls in the university grounds, grows vigorously several public spaces, parks, everywhere but in my garden. Why the inhabitants plant so much of it, I can not fathom, since I can not believe that they cook with it. But, I seem to be the only person in Dunedin who has not succeeded in growing a single sprig.  To get my hands on rosemary I have to resort to theft from lush bushes of the stuff overhanging various pavements around where I live.

Apricot and Rosemary Jam 

3 Kg Ripe Apricots

2 Kg White Sugar

20 g Finely chopped Rosmary leave

15 g Apricot Stone kernels, finely chopped

Cook everything together in a big pot for half an hour. Let it rest for some 12 hours.  Cook again until the jam consistency reaches the “Freezer Test ” thickness. Stir in a tablespoon of butter and take it off the heat. When it is cool enough to handle. bottle and seal. Sterilise the closed bottles as described before.

This flavorsome jam is ideal for eating with strong cheeses and using as a glaze for pork and poultry.