Making olives

Last fall, I made olives from fruit gathered from a neighbor’s tree. As it turns out, this neighbor had been interested in making olives for a while, but never looked into it. He was very excited about the project and readily let me pick his olives.

I hadn’t cured olives before, but I’ve did some research on it (and have a lot of experience with other niche food projects!). As it turns out, it’s pretty easy and makes an item that is relatively expensive to purchase, so definitely worth it.

There are four basic ways to cure olives: in water, in salt brine, in lye brine, and in salt (dry). The lye method is the fastest- it can take less than a day, but lye is rather dangerous, of course. Curing in water is also supposed to be relatively fast (a month), although it seems of questionable veracity to me. Dry-curing takes 1-2 months. This method is also called oil-curing, since these types of olives are often marinated in oil after being cured. The low water content makes them taste richer and oilier. The slowest, but one of the easiest and most common, methods is brining. It takes 6-12 months and produces a “normal” olive.

The salt-based methods rely on lacto-fermentation for flavor and additional preservation. The salt prevents the wrong types of bacteria from growing (which is why it’s important to use enough salt and why I’m dubious about the water-only method!); the fermentation adds flavor and acidity.

All methods can be used on all types and ripeness of olives, but there are combinations that are more common. For example, dry-curing is more common with ripe olives. Brining is more common with green (unripe) or half-green olives. Unripe olives tend to have a stronger taste, since they start off more bitter.

Here’s a review of the process, plus improvements:

  • Collect olives by shaking branches towards a tarp. Gather olives from the tarp (e.g. pour into a bucket). Picking by hand is laborious and bumping the tree as you pick causes nearby olives to fall off and be lost.
  • Many (~75%) of the olives I collected had been impacted by the olive fruit fly, which lays its eggs in the olive meats. Impacted olives are safe to eat, but may be more acidic and have a shorter shelf life. I didn’t use any of the impacted olives this time, but would in the future since I was left with so few olives!
  • I dry-cured the olives, leaving them in a jar of salt for ~3-4 months. Turns out this was too long, as the olives were overly salty and desiccated, so make sure to taste-test periodically. I rehydrated and de-salted by soaking in plain water for a few days, then put the olives in a brine (because they started getting moldy…).
  • Dry-curing works best on ripe olives. I cured some green and half-green olives that turned out kinda hard and bitter, so I would avoid those in the future.

I was impressed with how easy the process was and how olive-like the finished product was.

Leftover salt. I still have it. Maybe I can use it in the next batch of olives.
The finished olives! I eventually put them in a brine (sniped from some commercial olives) for storage. I intend to give some to the tree-owner.

Dumpster diving

Expired snacks put out on trash day. I got a previous load of food from the same house last year. I’m really enjoying the fruit leather. Everything else is meh.
Preserved lemons made from dumpster-dived lemons from an Austin Råndålls.

And the newest acquisition:

From the local CeeVeeSss’s dumpster. Includes some weird sauerkraut-tortilla chips. Other stuff I didn’t get: diapers, makeup sponges, shower scrubby.

New frontiers in boba!

Someone online said that no Bay Area boba establishment has turned them away for asking to use a non-disposable boba cup. That sounded amazing, so I implored sibling C (visiting) to attempt it for the first time. It was too nerve-wracking for me to try in untested waters.

When asked if it was okay to use a jar (wide-mouth quart jar in this case; pint jars wouldn’t be big enough for a normal serving of milk tea), the cashier not only agreed, but did so immediately without any weird looks! Maybe she just saw us coming and prepared herself, or maybe it’s common here! I will definitely do this at Teaspoon again 😀

A quart of milk tea. The bigger jar was awarded bonus tea!

I usually use the provided plastic boba straws (or wrapped ones that ended up on the ground that no one else wants), but am thinking of buying or making a reusable one. J and I get boba a couple times a month with friends, so it would make sense.

Birthday beans

Guess what my mom gave me for my birthday (so long ago now I’m sorry)?? Beans!!

They’re from Rancho Gordo, a company that grows and sells heirloom beans and traditional Mexican beans (to help preserve local food traditions!). Even though these are just about the fanciest beans that exist, they only cost ~$6/lb. That’s about as cheap as the worst-quality factory-farmed beef you can buy. Amazing.

I wish Rancho Gordo sold in bigger bags!

I also got scarlet runner beans, which I ate before photographing everything. They are huge!!! The cooked beans are the size of the first segment of my thumb. You have to eat the beans one by one, they’re so big.


Granola attempt

Granola! I already ate most of the oats out. The sorghum is the yellow beads.

I made granola a few months ago, using this recipe, which comes down to:

Combine 6 parts dry ingredients (usually 3 parts rolled oats, 1 part nuts, 1 part seeds, 1 part something else) with 1 part wet ingredient (about half oil and half liquid sweetener) + 1 egg white (optional; makes the granola extra crispy and browned). Bake at 300°F for about 45 min until dry and browned, stirring every 15 min. If you want to add dried fruit, stir into hot granola once you take it out of the oven.

I made a super exciting novelty batch of granola using oats, millet, quinoa, flax seeds, amaranth, and (unfortunately) sorghum. The sorghum did not cook in the allotted baking time. It is like little stones mixed into the granola. You’d think you were going to break your teeth. For the past few months, I’ve been painstakingly picking the sorghum out of the granola. There was a cup of sorghum to start with, so I’m about halfway done…

Takeaway message: don’t get too excited with your granola. If you’re going to add non-oat ingredients, they should be edible raw or small enough to cook in the same amount of time as the oats, which have a stovetop cooking time of 5 min.

Bread pudding

I roasted a ton of sweet potatoes last week for snacking on, but my interest in them has waned. To prevent the rest from going bad, I decided to turn them into dessert. Sweet potato pie was the first option, but I also wanted to use up some waffles that had been languishing in the freezer, plus some milk that was getting old. The stars aligned for a batch of sweet potato-waffle bread pudding!


There’s no recipe; I just threw the ingredients together based on my last memory of making bread pudding. Bread pudding usually involves: milk, cream, sugar, eggs, butter -> custard; bread -> bread; cinnamon, vanilla, nuts, and raisins as extras. In my case, I replaced the custard with sweet potato pie filling (using homemade evaporated milk!), and the bread with waffles. Sadly, I forgot about the nuts and raisins 🙁 and we don’t have any rum on hand. Next time!

Hiking and yakiniku with friend A

A few weekends ago, friend A (the one who likes bugs and Bitcoin), J, and I went hiking at Stevens Creek County Park. It’s near the mountainous origin of Stevens Creek, which goes down through Cupertino and Mountain View and into the Bay. The creek is dammed up at the park for flood control, I presume (the dam doesn’t appear to have any hydroelectric turbines).

The rest at the end of the hike.
The reservoir and dam. Lehigh Permanente limestone quarry and cement plant is off to the left.
A flower.

The trip was nice despite a bad start. Due to a navigation mishap, we took a 1-hour detour up a windy mountain road, only to reach a dead end.

Afterwards, we got grilling supplies at the local Korean grocery store to make yakiniku, Japanese-style Korean grilled meat!

Steamed packet of enoki mushrooms+butter and soy sauce.
Beef shortribs, tofu, zucchini, eggplant marinated in Korean BBQ sauce (found in the freezer; recipe from Maangchi); shiitake mushrooms. We had kimchi, cold barley tea, and J-made sauce on the side.

In the background of the above picture, you can see a little blue ink bottle, a pen laying on the table, and a big white canister of soylent.

I got the ink and fountain pen (vintage Esterbrook lever-fill!) from someone on Freecycle, but didn’t like the style of nib. It’s some fancy kind that wasn’t super easy to write with. Fortunately, it wasn’t hard to get rid of – friend A’s sister is into fountain pens, so the pen and ink are going to her.

The soylent is leftover from a J attempt to not have to cook. It turns out that soylent tastes like pancake batter (kind of powdery and tasteless), so it was cast aside… and given to A, who doesn’t want to cook either. We’ll see how he likes it.