$5 Friday: Mindfully preserving olives

The days are getting shorter now, there is a chill in the air and my trees are laden with black olives.

A young child picking olives
Little A helping mummy pick olives from the tree in our front yard – a very willing helper

The olives on my tree aren’t so impressive.  Perhaps because I don’t water them much (if at all) they are tiny and wrinkled. I wondered if they were ornamental, even edible, but I decided to experiment and see if I could brine them.


The end result of my olives last year probably wouldn’t win any awards.  They were mottled in colour, smaller than commercial cousins, yet they tasted – well, like olives.  Nice actually. Nice enough for me to feel okay about bringing them out at communal gatherings with food blogger friends.

Little A and I started picking them together from the tree last weekend.  Big A was more interested in the computer and not so helpful, but Little A thought it was lots of fun picking olives with Mummy.  He actually did pick a lot of his own, before he decided it was time to hold the container for me so that I could get the high ones.  Then we went inside and I sat there for half an hour or so cutting slits into each side of the small olives. He would then pick each one up and drop it into a waiting jar.

It was a lovely way to while away an hour or so.  Listening to soft music, chatting with my housemate, joking with Little A, time just went.  It made me wonder whether this was what cooking – or indeed parenting – was all about. There was no expensive toy in sight, yet we were hanging out just being in the present.  Well, except for Big A who sad to say was still on the computer through all of this.

After everyone got bored and left me to it, I still continued with my olive preparation.  It reminded me so much of meditative mindfulness practice.  As I cut each olive, I paused to appreciate how each one was individual, each one with its patterns of wrinkles or plumpness totally individual in its own way. I felt the olive juice oozing out onto my fingers as I cut in with my knife, the smell of the bitter olives and the small ‘plop’ as I piled them in a jar. I thought back to the raisin eating exericise I did as part of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course.  I have never been able to look at raisins the same way again, and now olives have a whole new meaning as well.


I occurred to me as I was doing this, that in terms of dollars saved my pursuit of brining olives probably wouldn’t amount to much.  It is really only a drop in the ocean compared with the large quantity of foodstuff I buy at the supermarkets each year.  But saving and investing does not yield an instant result: just like making olives it takes time and patience, and requires mindfully watching the little things.

So I am back to making more olives.  And I am going to get Little A to help me again this weekend.

If you want my recipe, you can find it on my post from last year.  I found the method worked very well for me, so I have continued again.  I am always a bit scared whenever I open a jar – I feel this need to try at least one before I serve to better, but (touch wood) I haven’t had a bad one yet.


Olives – free (from my garden, but there are a lot grown for landscaping purposes never used for olives)
water – free
Salt – 10c
Olive oil – 20c
Jars – free
Total:  30c

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