At Christmas, someone gave me a jar of olive jam, something that spent (as it turns out) far too long in the cupboard.
I dragged it out about three weeks ago when lunch was a cheese and fruit platter and had a crack (OK, and some crackers too). It was bloody good ... and it got me thinking, I could make that.
And make it I did, but not before a bit of research. Anyway what did I have to lose, other than my reputation because I mouthed off to friends about it and promised them all a taste or two? Mind you, my friend Anna, who runs a stall at the South Melbourne Market, was convinced that you can’t make jam out of olives. “I’m Greek,” she said, “I’ve eaten olives all my life. You just don’t make jam with them.”
I had a huge jar of Kalamata olives in the fridge and the other ingredients with the exception of some fat green olives and a large green apple. Oh, and some preserving jars, which I bought at the kitchenware shop in the market. Yeah, the woman there gave me a discount. Shit, I love the market
The recipe I used, and there are plenty on the interweb thing, was on the Yahoo Answers site. Needless to say, I didn’t adhere to the measurements … I just reckoned that if it looked about enough of this or that, it’d be OK. While it was cooking, I baked the jars in the oven to sterilise them.
2 cups drained and pitted Kalamata olives (packed)1 cup drained and pitted high-quality green olives (packed)1 1/3 cup sugar1 1/3 cup water1 organic lemon1 large green apple, peeled, cored and diced1/3 cup mild honeyPut the olives in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for one minute. Drain completely. Repeat this process two more times - this should take enough salt out of the olives so that they're only mildly salty. Set the olives aside and rinse out the saucepan. Add the sugar and 1 1/3 cups water to the saucepan and swirl to combine. Cut a couple of strips of zest from the lemon and drop them in the sugar water. Slice the lemon up very thinly (don't worry about the seeds), and add the slices to the pan as well. Bring this to a simmer over medium heat and let it cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until it's reduced to about a cup of liquid. Pour this through a strainer into a bowl, pressing on the lemon solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Return the liquid to the pan, adding the diced apple, honey and olives. Bring to a simmer again and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the apples are soft and everything is very thick - about another 10-15 minutes (you can add water if it seems to be getting too thick). Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. With an immersion blender or a normal blender, process the entire mixture until it is velvety-smooth. It should be quite a jammy consistency already; if it's runny you can continue to cook it a little bit more, but keep in mind it will thicken as it cools. Transfer to jars and refrigerate.
Well bugger me, once it was cool enough to taste, I tasted. Bingo. It worked a treat and what a treat it was.
ROMEO & JULIET WITH A MODERN TWIST
I headed off on Wednesday night to see a production of Romeo and Juliet in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Me and culture? God, that’s a bit of a shock to the system, eh?
I’d been given a couple of freebie tickets and after my first choice (on so many levels) as a partner said she wouldn’t go, I asked my friend Elizabeth at our office. I call her Bette, which probably annoys the bejesus out of her, but I reckon she’s too decent person to say so. And she agreed top pick me up and what’s more, she snaffled a parking spot … they were as rare as rocking horse shit on the night … about 80 metres from the entrance. How good is she? Two others from the office, Maria and Jo, were also going, so we decided on a picnic of sorts, which included the public debut (well, it was the theatre) of my olive jam.
As usual, I packed enough stuff to sink a ship … a tea-towel, a stopper to reseal bubbles (should there be any left, and there was. More on the stopper later), a cheese knife, a small bottle to use as an ashtray, a rubbish bag, disposable plates and cutlery (gifts from my friend Anna at the market), plastic Champagne flutes and a wine chiller (yeah, if you’re gonna do it, do it properly). Oh, and there was some food: to wit, a roast chicken, a slab of Le Delice de Bourgogne triple brie, described at SamCooks.com as “a thick, unctuous cheese with incredible mouthfeel and a nutty, slightly barnyardy quality”. I would have just said it’s a mouth orgasm, mind, but no matter. There was also some blue cheese, some truffled goat’s cheese, some Edam, breadsticks, lots of water crackers, dips, figs, grapes and the olive jam.
Maria brought French bubbles (as did I along with some sparkling mineral water) and a picnic rug. We snaffled four low chairs, got ourselves settled and got into it.
One of the cast was doing the warm-up comedy thing (why Shakespeare needed a warm-up man was beyond me … still is) and he asked the crowd whether there were any single fellas in the audience. Silly bastard me stuck up a hand, expecting that there’d be a few, but I was it. Seems everyone had a partner but me. The bloke came over to me and really endeared himself (not) by saying something like: “Well, no wonder you’re single, try having a shave. But there are a couple of single women down the front.” I said: Why bother, I’m here with three. And maybe you could clean your shoes some time.” Smart arse. Him, not me (OK maybe a bit).
I’m not sure why there was dialogue that included a reference to Facebook, among other things, slipped into the performance, plus a song or two, but that’s what they did. I reckon that if old Billy was still pushing a pen now, he would be on Facebook in a flash to give it the thumbs down. No matter.
It was a fun night … the play went down OK but perhaps not as well as the Le Delice and the olive jam.
Bette dropped me off at home (what a woman) and I had a chat to son Joel while I put away the leftovers. I also decided to put away the two thirds of a bottle of bubbles (it’s called Madame Coco).
The Balgownie Estate stopper was doing its thing until, as I placed a flute on the kitchen bench, it went off like nothing I’ve ever seen or heard and about 40 centimetres from my head … it hit a double steamer hanging above the bench. The noise and speed at which it happened scared the shit out of Joel and me. I’ve got no doubt it would have at least knocked me out or even killed me if it hit me on the right spot. Yeah, the doctor was right when he said that drink can kill or at least do serious damage.
No harm was done and after a few glasses, I decided to have the last one in bed … it was a nicely decadent way to end a pleasant day.
For the record, I found this extract on the site of Sunshine Creek, a wine shop in Camberwell:
Madame Coco is a very spiffy little number from Fourth Wave Wine. It’s well packaged, well priced, well made and well easy to quaff. It’s a blanc de blancs sparkling white wine grown in France’s Aude Valley. It’s made with chardonnay (50%) and chenin blanc mostly, though there are some small inputs from other high acid white varieties. It spends 12 months on lees. It’s made properly – methode traditionelle – none of this tank-gassed-fermented business. If you go through a bit of sparkling wine, you’re pretty much mad not to jump onto this. It’s French, it’s bubbly, it’s under $20 and it’s a whole lot of fun. In many ways, there’s no need to say anything more. It’s musky and lemony, alive with fluffy bubbles and flavoursome enough. I know it’s a blanc de blancs but I saw some Turkish delight characters in it; though that said, I drank a bit too much of this a bit too quickly, so maybe my judgement was impaired. It’s that kind of wine. Buy. - Campbell Mattinson www.winefront.com.au
I’m with Campbell, it goes off. Give it a try.
TO MARKET, TO MARKET
I’m always happy when it farmers’ market day (it’s usually the third Saturday in the month). And so it was this morning … and another fruitful (OK, I didn’t buy fruit) trip.
The bounty made it worthwhile: the organic pistachio man had run out of chilli pistachios, so I had to make do with natural, the garlic string (about eight or so heads), the organic falafel mix (an extra box for my friend Ange), some olive sourdough bread, some beetroot relish (I told the woman stallholder about my olive jam and she’s planning to make some), some goat sausages, some chilli chocolate and the best chai going.
One down, one more market trip to go … and this time I grabbed a parking spot at the door.
I was armed with some tasting packs of my olive jam, one for Anna and another for my friend, Dave, at Swords Wines.
First stop, Anna. “Shit, that’s beautiful,” she said, “but it’s not jam. Really.”
Yes it is, I told her. We agreed to disagree and she headed off to get a baguette so she could get stuck into it.
Next stop, Dave. “That’s really good,” he said, “really good. You have to send me the recipe. And I have to get you some onion jam from a shop near my house. You’ll love it.” Done. I headed off for some food shopping and told Dave I’d be back.
I went to my favourite deli (the one with the cheese room) and bought a slab of Le Delice, a couple of dips, some baklava and a couple of small(ish) savoury tarts. Tick. A fresh baguette was next stop. Given that there were plenty of goodies at home, dinner tonight for Joel and I was going to be a damned fine platter of bits and pieces. Tick again.
The next stop was back to see Dave at Swords. He’s had a case of 2004 Date Brothers durif put away for me for a while. It’s the last of it that he’ll get. Dave always has something to taste and today it was a special beer (Dave tweets as @vulgarbeerman and he know his stuff).
Trappistes Rochefort 10, a Belgian strong dark ale-style beer brewed by Brasserie de Rochefort in Rochefort, was the taster of choice. The Trappistes website says: “Enjoy it, drink a second glass, and a third for special occasions, but never more”. There’s good reason for that: it’s a whopping 11.3 per cent.
One website suggests: “Dark colour, full and very impressive taste. Strong plum, raisin, and black currant palate, with ascending notes of vinousness and other complexities.
For mine, and you’re probably not going to find any tasting notes that say this, but seriously, this beer is as smooth as a cat pissing on velvet. It’s quite the best beer I’ve had since, well, since God’s dog was a pup.
And just as I was enjoying it, I got a phone call from my brother to ask where I was. “At home, typing some stuff for my blog,” I said to him. He countered with: “Do you know where I am?” “Where?” And my heart sank when he said: “At Lisa’s wedding (his daughter).” No, I explained (or tried to), Joel and I talked about it this morning … it’s next weekend. “Have a look at your invitation.” I said: “But I wrote it in my diary … the 26th.” And I had. I looked at the invitation … yeah, the 19th. If that doesn’t make me the biggest shit uncle there is, then I don’t know what would. Sorry, Lisa. So sorry.