Verdear – the picking of green Olives

Verdear or ‘greening’ is the picking of green olives for eating. The verdear usually happens in October but this year has been unusual. Many crops have been early, as is the case with the olives, which are ready now, some two or three weeks before time.

On the same tree will often be found the two different types of olive. The ‘manzanilla’ olive which has the shape of a little apple, round and plump, and the slightly elongated olive which is left on the tree to become black and is picked in late November or December and is used to make oil. Some trees have just one type of olive but grafting can give double cropping.

So now the verdear begins, clambering up a ladder to reach as many olives as possible. Standing on branches, stretching out and up, the olives seem to dance out of reach just when you think you have them in your grasp. The sun blazing down . . . hot and thirsty work, also very dirty as the trees seem to collect dust. The olives cannot be bashed down with a large stick like they can later in the years as they will bruise.

Olives that have small marks are okay for preserving, as the mark can be cut away, but deep marks are no good as it usually extends into the flesh of the olive and once cut away leaves very little left to eat.

Once collected, the olives with bad marks are discarded and the rest washed. Next job is to slice around the olive to allow the flesh to be cured. There are some wooden lap crushers that do the job of opening up the olive, but it leaves the olive looking battered with a gaping wound . . . not nice to look at when eating.

A washing up bowl full of olives will make about eleven or twelve good sized jars. I put the jars into the oven for 15 minutes at 200°C and boil the jar lids on the stove for the same time before filling.

I put 3 table spoons of salt into 1 litre of water, the salt water is thus the main medium for curing and this is not a too salty mixture, you can experiment here and maybe use less salt. It will take about 4 litres of this preparation to deal with our washing up bowl full. Now we start to bottle the olives. Some methods have you soaking the olives pressed down under water and changing the water until the water is clear, but this often leads to the olives going mouldy.

Into each jar put olives so that the jar is half full, then use some small pieces of lemon, two crushed garlics, a sprig of rosemary, a torn bay leaf, some torn basil leaves and a sprinkling of dried chilli. Pour the salty water over then fill the jar full of olives with more pieces of lemon, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, basil and dried chill. Fill the jar to the brim putting a final layer of olives on the top. Seal and store in a dark place for at least 3 months.

This recipe can vary, red peppers can by used or fresh chillies or oregano. Any number of herbs can be used.
The salt water cures the olives by way of the cut made and the added ingredients give flavours. When the jar is opened it often foams out as fermentation has taken place. Rinse the preserved olives off several times and discard any olives that have discoloured. Pour over good quality olive oil before serving.

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Bottling 2011

We decided to bottle one of the barrels now in January, another in February and the last one in May. This will give us a spread of time that the wine has been in the barrels and how the flavour compares over differing time periods.

The devil is in the detail, so . . .

Barrel One

Five days prior to bottling,in mid January, I used four egg whites mixed with half a litre of  salty water to pour into the barrel. This is to take down to the bottom any remaining sediment that may be in solution.

Used 4 crushed camden tablets (sodium metabsulphite) in small white bucket for corks to soak. Used 10 crushed camden tablets in larger white container to flush through the pump and then put water into bottle soaking bin. We are using the pump to transfer the wine from the barrel to a container that has a tap and can thus fill the bottles easily.

Used two crushed camden tablets in container with tap and put water in  bottle soaking bin.

Rinsed bottles in sink using bottle brush then into black bin that has crushed camden tablets added. Soaked and rinsed bottles thoroughly, then into oven at 200 degrees centigrade for 15 minutes. The bottles have then to cool down for 10 minutes or so and then go straight to have the wine poured in and corked.

Changed water in soaking bin after processing 100 bottles or so and used 10 crushed camden tablets each time.

Started bottling at 12.30 and finished at 6.30 having bottled 256 bottles from the barrel before the sediment came through.

We tasted as we bottled and found the wine to have a bright, clear and fresh burgundy colour, there is some nose which should dissipate and the wine has medium length and a fresh young fruity flavour.

Barrel Two

Late February and time to prepare for bottling.  Used exactly the method as previously.

Bottled 252 bottles, which took nearly 6 hours.

The wine has a bright and clear burgundy colour, this time with no nose and good fresh berry fruit bouquet and flavour.

Barrel Three

Late April and time to prepare for last bottling of the 2010 vintage.  Used exactly the method as previously as it has worked well.

Bottled 238 bottles, which again took nearly 6 hours.

This final bottling has bright and clear colour with no nose and fresh berry fruit flavour, but is a little dryer.

Next year we will go into stainless steel tanks as I want to have consistent flavour.

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Pressing & Barrelling the Wine

The fermentation stopped on 6th September, we harvested and put into the tank on the 26th August, so  that’s a 10 day fermentation. Now is the time to barrel and press the wine. When the cap has sunk and lots of seeds are on the surface its a good sign that the first stage of storing the wine has been reached. Whether to go into wooden barrels or stainless steel containers is a matter of personal choice. We have access to two-year old french oak barrels that have 5 or so years left in them which gives extra flavours to the wine, so for now we use them.

1Brian & Tom moving must in the tank

1Press borrowed from Juan Antonio

The press is cleaned and washed down ready for use. In fact all the buckets, tubes, colanders, funnels, utensils etc are sterilised and cleaned. First we transfer the free liquid using tubes into the barrels. This method is slow even with three tubes so next year we will get a pump. The fine tubes avoid too many pips and bits of skin getting into the barrel, although they do add flavour. Also a fine muslin is used to filter out any bits.

3tubes going from tank to barrel4Wooden block lowering into tank

It is a slow process but on a sunny day with an occasional taste check not a bad job to be doing. As the tank empties the pips and pulp and skins are put into the press and squeezed as tight as we can. We only fill the press up to the half way mark and after two pressings we put the whole batch of skins through again and even more juice comes out.

5Wine going through muslin6Draining off the liquid

Presses like this have not changed in centuries and it is a tried and sure way for small winemakers to squeeze the last drop out of the grapes. The creaking of the wood blocks, in the press, as they take the strain is alarming but as long as they are placed square to each other and do not slip there is no chance of a sudden collapse. There is a lot of alcohol and flavour in the pressed wine, it has a thicker consistency than the free run juice.

7Getting that last drop8Grapes in the press

9It takes 2 to press

10Last juice and grapes

As the last of the wine is taken from the main tank and the last pressing made the dry skins and pips are put into separate containers to be distributed around the vineyard. We place them around each vine rather than just throw down in the lines. There maybe some side products, like soap, we could make from the skins but so far we just use it for mulch. Lifting the cake from the press becomes a game to see who can lift the most entire piece.

12Liquid coming through11No juice left

Once all the wine is in the barrels we added diluted campden tablets at the rate of 1 tab per 5 litres. So each barrel of 225 litres has 45 tablets added to control any bacterial action. As we have no cellar our barrels sit outside on the covered terrace against the house wall, not ideal but as temperatures drop now, we should average down to 14C through the winter, we will see how that works out. We do get air frost in January down to -5C but other winter months can be in the 20C’s so some variance.

14Cake of grapes ready to be dumped

13Another quarter of grapes

18All the must ready to go on land

15Cleaning out the press

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For years now we have had a good crop of Quinces, locally known as Membrillo, but have not used them. After looking at several recipes we decided to have a try at making a Membrillo cheese or paste.

Making membrillo cheese 001Making membrillo cheese 002

First step was to collect a dozen quinces and wash thoroughly and get the downy fluff off them. Next stage was to cut out the pips and core but to leave the skin intact which has a lot of pectin. Some recipes advise to cut the skin off as well and others to leave all intact and just cut up, there are many choices.

Making membrillo cheese 003Making membrillo cheese 004

Then the next step is to put the cut pieces into a pan of cold water, with two large lemon slices. Just cover the quince pieces and bring to  the boil. Leave on a slow boil until very soft but intact. Some recipes have a vanilla pod included during the boil. I think the flavour is intense enough anyway, so it brings little to the final taste.

Making membrillo cheese 005Making membrillo cheese 006

Pour off the hot water and puree the quince pieces with a hand blender or liquidiser. Optionally you could sieve for a finer and clearer finished product. Put into large heavy pot, with two good squeezes of lemon and over a low heat stir in sugar This could be pectin added sugar for a higher chance of the quince setting or regular sugar. I used 1 kilo regular sugar to 1.6 kilos of fruit as it is sweet enough, the ratio can vary depending on your taste. Once sugar is dissolved continue on low heat until the quince thickens to a deep reddish amber colour and the mixing spoon leaves a clear line along the bottom of the pan when drawn across.

Transfer to a parchment lined shallow pan which has been lightly oiled or buttered, and spread quince paste over the surface. Put into oven at low heat (50°C) with the fan on for at least an hour or maybe even two hours to get dry and set on the pan.

Making membrillo cheese 011
Once done, take out and let cool. Put into fridge in tupperware or similar container and let set more. Sprinkle with castor sugar if required.

Looks and tastes a bit like a fruitier turkish delight.

Great with cheese or just toast.

Trouble is if you have a tree full of the things, like me, and it does take some time to make, so where to put it all? Maybe its best to make a jam and put into jars as they are easier to store.

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Bottling the Wine

With the hot summer months coming it is now time to move the wine from the barrel into bottles. It was in early September 2009 that the wine from our first harvest was put into the barrel. This was from our first section of planting, which was of Tempranillo vines 3 years before. Now at the beginning of July 2010, with the help of John from the States and Tom from London, I have the extra hands necessary for the job.

Bottling July 10 (6)

Bottling July 10 (23)

Tubing wine from barrel

Using a narrow tube and capillary action we took the wine from the barrel and put it through a Vinturi Wine Aerator so that the wine was oxygenated before going in the bottles. This was a slow and laborious job involving many hands and because of the position of the barrel we had to sit awkwardly. A lesson to be learned for next year! We then poured the wine into the bottles

Bottling July 10 (24)

Hands, Tubes and Funnels

Bottling July 10 (17)

The bottles had previously been thoroughly washed in a cleaning and disinfecting solution and then had 15 minutes in the oven at 200C. As the bottles were filled we then took a cork from a separate cleaning solution and using our super corking machine pressed home the cork. This requires a strong arm as the nozzle first compresses the cork to make it smaller than the bottle opening and then pushes it down.

Bottling July 10 (8)
Bottling July 10 (9)As the day continued and the line of finished bottles got longer the tedium of this particular job struck us and with a ready supply to hand we had to sample as we went. This led us to think of seemingly inspired variations of how we could accomplish what we were doing more easily. As our talkativeness increased so did our need to quench our thirst on what was after all a hot day anyway.

The line of bottles increased until at last we had over 200 of the blighters. Now where to put them? The coolest place in the house was in the porch, where the barrel had been, and in the family bathrooms. So the bottles were racked and stacked under the double sink tops in boxes to lie quietly to see how the taste would mature.

Bottling July 10 (20)

Many green bottles waiting by the wall!


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