The olive is a noble food appreciated all over the world. Not in vain at the beginning of the 16th century it was already exported to America from Huelva and even today on that continent they are still the main consumers of table olives. Traditional palates prefer it with water and salt, natural. But it is also a very versatile food that adapts, that crosses cultures and adopts different dressings and fillings for all tastes.
Why are some olives black and others green?
Although the one who wins the international awards is his son the oil, the table olive also deserves all our respect, especially considering that Spain is the largest producer in the world: specifically, it sells 20.2% of the world total of 2,800,000 tons of table olives, according to the International Olive Council, what it supposes 567,000 tons of annual average in Spain in the last five years, although they may vary depending on the harvest. To get to know them better, we have consulted Manuel Rodríguez, an economist at the Manzanilla Olive Group, who has revealed to us the secrets of the different dressings.
The most recognized table olives
The aloreña has been the first olive to earn a Protected Designation of Origin, the PDO Aloreña de Málaga. There you can find them crushed, as if they had been hit with a hammer and the bone had been left in sight, and seasoned with water, fennel, thyme, pepper and salt. When you bite it, it will crunch but you will have to chew it given its texture and thickness.
The Majorcan is the second olive to get the recognition of PDO Olives from Mallorca. You will eat it green, ripe, split or black; and, once it has been brined, they season the natural black with island oil or the split green with chilli and fennel.
Chamomile and gordal are protected with the PGI Manzanilla and Gordal of Seville. This Protected Geographical Indication welcomes those two typical varieties of the province, the Sevillian Manzanilla (which also extends through Huelva) and the Gordal, both with their Sevillian-style dressing, which, when cooked in caustic soda and immersed in brine, making a natural lactic fermentation, they are perfect for export. That is why they are the most consumed and widespread in the world, due to the finesse and meatiness of the chamomile and the size of the fat, which allows a lot of play with the fillings.
Other common olives
The hojiblanca It owes its name to the color of the leaves of its olive trees, but they are actually ideal for making black olives. They are usually large and range between sweet and spicy flavors and a certain bitterness. It is very widespread in Andalusia, where the ancestral recipe “chupadedos” stands out, based on garlic, pepper, oregano and olive oil.
The verdial It comes from Huévar, Vélez-Málaga and Badajoz and its name does coincide with its green color, big and sweet, very pleasant to the palate. It is the queen of dressings, especially if it is split, because it would better absorb a good dressing of carrots, salt, garlic cloves, pieces of pepper and garlic with crushed thyme.
The cuquillo or lechín de Granada is not grown only in Granada but in neighboring provinces such as Almería and Murcia. It is called suckling pig because of its milky color, but it tastes more like apple and almonds. For example, the Elche-style dressing includes split olives, chives, oregano, tarragon, bay leaf, sweet paprika and oil.
Cacereña chamomile It is a variety that for centuries has almost exclusively flooded the south of Salamanca and the north of Cáceres. It is highly appreciated for its large amount of pulp or meat and for its flavor. It has a sub-variety known as Carrasqueña in Cáceres. His curiosity is that it is also used to dress dishes such as salads, not just to eat them dressed.
The weevil It is very common in Córdoba and is fleshy, fruity, fresh and with a touch of bitter almond. Partida, it is customary to eat with a bitter dressing based on fennel, thyme, vinegar, salt, lemon and garlic.
The arbequina It is easily recognized because it is very small but very tasty, usually seasoned with thyme, rosemary, cayenne, hot paprika, rosemary, salt, lemon, garlic and bay leaf. Curiously, it is of Palestinian origin, but it is very common in Catalonia and in certain areas of Aragon.
The empeltre or black of Aragon It is located in Bajo Aragón and the Sierra del Moncayo, it ranges between brown and black and its texture is soft and wrinkled, but the flavor is rather powerful, of ripe fruit. They are perfect for a cod esqueixada, but also waterfalls and in brine, they are very rich seasoned with herbs and vegetables such as fennel, pepper and paprika.
The Serrana de Espadán It comes from the Spanish Levante Sierras and can be found on a table already black in brine and wrinkled, with different very juicy dressings, marketed as “marcida” and “serrana”.
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