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Ingredient Profile: An Olive Sampler

Fine Cooking Issue 82
Photo: Scott Phillips
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One of the best supermarket trends these days is the self-serve olive bar near the deli or cheese section. Here’s a flavor guide to some of the olives you might come across, either at the olive bar or elsewhere in the store.

Oil-cured (aka dry-cured or salt-cured)
Medium black and slightly shriveled, a result of being cured in salt and then rubbed with oil. Less meaty than brine-cured olives, they have a concentrated, pleasantly bitter flavor.

Medium French green olives with a slender almond shape. A soak in lime and wood ash before brining adds to their complex, sweet, slightly floral flavor.

Tiny French olives that are brown to black in color. They have an intensely savory flavor and are often sold in an herbal marinade.

Gaeta (aka Gyeta)
Medium Italian olives cured in either salt or brine. Brine-cured gaetas (shown in the photo) have a tangy yet mild flavor.

Kalamata (aka Calamata)
Medium Greek olives with a toothsome texture. Juicy, fruity, and nutty with bright acidic flavor from the vinegar brine in which they’re cured. Often sold already pitted, making them convenient for using in recipes.

Black or green very large, oval, pointy-ended Italian olives with a high flesh to pit ratio. Both colors have a delicate, sweet buttery flavor, but the blacks are quite mild and the greens are slightly tangy. They are often dyed bright red or green.

California (aka Mission or black)
Medium to large with a meaty texture; usually sold canned. Their lye curing process leaves them with a very mild to bland flavor.

Manzanilla (aka Manzanillo or Spanish)
Widely known as the “martini olive.” Usually sold pitted and often stuffed with pimento, they have a meaty texture and a briny flavor.


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