Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
Crazy good, naturally-cured, cracked green olives from southeastern Spain
I taste a lot of new foods. Rarely a week goes by that I don’t try a dozen or two new items—either our own, samples that have been sent, or things that I come across in my travels. Although I try not to let my preconceptions get in the way, the reality is that, like all human beings, I have my biases and beliefs. Even the fact that I wrote a 600-page book on the subject doesn’t preclude it from happening. Sometimes I expect a lot—in a few cases, the flavor of the products falls short. Other times, something I expected very little from catches me by surprise and blows me away with its fine full flavor. Which is exactly what happened with these Aloreña olives! They caught me completely off guard in the best possible way when I first tried them three or four years ago. With the passing of time, they’d completely left my culinary consciousness. I noticed them in the cooler at the Deli the other day, and I picked some up. Now I can’t stop thinking about them!
Aloreña olives come from the Valley of Guadalhorce, in the district of Malaga, on Spain’s southeast corner, just up the road from the famous tourist town of Torremolinos. Aside from agriculture, the valley is home to a world-renowned nature reserve! While most of the western world is tragically losing bird species, the park at Guadalhorce is helping move us in a more positive direction—it’s home to a diverse series of birds including Glossy Ibis, Flamingos, Spoonbills, Black Storks, Audouin’s Gulls, Caspian Terns, and Snowy Plovers.
We get the Aloreñas thanks to the folks at a small family firm called Losada. They’ve been at this for over 60 years now and stubbornly stick to traditional ways. Each fall, the freshly picked olives are brought into the plant, hand cracked, and then placed into a natural brine of water and sea salt. They stay there for 9 to 12 months, which is super old-school curing. What we have now are the olives from the 2020 harvest. This style of olive-making may take way longer, but makes for a really marvelous flavor. The Aloreña have been recognized on the Slow Food Ark of Taste. They’re the only olive in Spain with a formal protected Denomination of Origin. They’re big, and maybe, speaking of money, the size of a fifty-cent piece. A lovely light khaki in color, the texture is crisp and lovely. The flavor is meaty, fresh, and clean. I like to serve them with olive oil and a bit of fresh herbs. Or with the fennel seeds we get from Daphnis and Chloe from Greece. Terrific for snacking, salads, lunch boxes, or cocktail hour (try one in a martini?). Ask for a taste next time you’re in the Deli.