Varieties and preparations of table olives

The three basic types of table olives are green, color-changing olives and black olives. Before they can be packaged they can be subjected to different processes such as deboning, filling, cutting, grinding or seasoning.



1781665222Green Olives: They are olives harvested before they ripen and change from green to a reddish or purplish color. They must be firm, with no markings other than those of their natural pigmentation. The color varies from green to straw yellow. Three quarters of the table olives harvested in Spain are green and come from a large number of native varieties, although the most representative are Manzanilla and Gordal. La Manzanilla is the most common table olive variety in the world due to its high quality and performance. It is also the most exported Spanish variety. It is cultivated in Andalusia, mainly in the province of Seville, is of light green color with faint white spots. The Gordal variety, called Sevillana in international markets, is a large, heart-shaped olive almost as large as an apricot. Its intensity and flavor make it one of the best-known Spanish table olives. It grows mainly in the south of Andalusia. In recent years, the production of other varieties has been spreading, especially Arbequina. It is a double purpose olive, olive oil production, but also processed as table olives. It is small in size and has a delicate, slightly bitter taste. The method traditionally used in Spain for the processing of green olives has been adopted internationally and has come to be known as the Spanish or Sevillian style. After the treatment with initial bleach to eliminate the natural bitterness, the olives are washed and conditioned in brine for the lactic fermentation. This is a key process not only for the preservation of the fruit, but also to give it its special organoleptic characteristics.

711408702Black Olives: There are two types of black olives, depending on their color at the time of harvest: natural black olives and olives blackened by oxidation. Natural black olives are harvested when they are almost ripe or fully ripe so that, depending on the time of harvest, they become reddish, purplish or blackish greenish brown, dark purple or dark brown. Unlike green olives, which are placed directly in concentrated brine, these do not require the previous treatment with bleach. The other type of black olives are those blackened by oxidation. These are collected before they are fully ripe and turn black during the oxidation process. In Spain the treatment is slightly different from the one adopted internationally as a California method, since in Spain, they are placed in brine before oxidation, which is a product of better color and texture. In Spain, black olives represent approximately 5% of the total production of table olives and most of them are blackened by oxidation, with the exception of black olives from Aragon, from the native Empeltre variety. The varieties that are most used in Spain for processing as black olives are Hojiblanca and Cacereña. La Hojiblanca is a late-ripening olive that grows mainly in the Andalusian provinces of Cordoba, Malaga, Seville and Granada. It is the second variety of the exports of Spain and the first one for the production of black olives, since its firm texture makes them ideal for this treatment. Its color varies from purple to black. It is a large, elliptical olive. La Manzanilla Cacereña, Extremadura and Castilla Leon has similar characteristics to the Manzanilla variety, well known although it is lighter in color. It takes the name of the province of Cáceres in Extremadura where it grows widely, as well as in the province of Salamanca, on the border of Castilla – León. It is mainly used for processing as black olives.


alorena-de-malaga-715085854Seasoned olives: These are olives seasoned with spices (paprika, cumin …), herbs (thyme, rosemary, laurel, oregano, fennel …) or other vegetable aromas (garlic, pepper, lemon …) Sometimes, the vinegar. They were traditionally distributed in bulk as perishable products for sale in the markets, but now they are sold packed with a growing variety of condiments. One of the olive varieties that are considered most suitable for the seasoning is the Verdial, due to its large size. This name covers a range of local varieties, most of them grown in Andalusia. Verdial is a double-purpose olive, that is, it can be processed either for the production of oil or table olives. Of very late maturation, it never turns black, hence its name.

1089190486Stuffed olives: Boneless olives stuffed with one or more ingredients or pastas like pepper, onion, capers, almonds, orange or lemon peel, or the most popular, anchovy or anchovy paste stuffing. The traditional process was manual, although now it is done in an industrial way, combining traditional recipes with advanced technology. Unlike the production of other olives, which is mostly carried out in Andalusia and Extremadura, this product is originally from the Valencian Community, which is where they are. The most specialized producers of anchovy-stuffed olives The combination of olive and anchovy is both tasty and surprising, and makes a perfect match for wines like fine sherry or chamomile or other drinks like beer. The olives stuffed with anchovy or anchovy flavor are often served as tapas in bars throughout Spain. Most of the exports of olives stuffed from Spain, olives are with a filling of red pepper.

Dehydrated Olives: Finally, a third method that is used only on a very small scale is dehydration. The olives are placed in the salt that extracts the juices and the leaves of the olives with a salty taste and a wrinkled aspect.

About the author

Montse Gonzalez