A Time-Tested Olive Recipe

If the people of ancient Israel could be transported through time to modern Israel, one thing they would find familiar would be the olives. "Digs in Masada, from the first centuries BCE through the first century CE, reveal that the residents there ate the same olives we eat today," says Tova Dickstein, a Bar-Ilan University doctoral student who is writing her thesis on ancient cuisine in the Land of Israel. "We can recognize the specific species that are still cultivated, unchanged." Dickstein also relates a time-tested method for pickling olives. The source? The 1st-century Roman agronomist Lucius Iunius Moderatus Columella, who published some 14 recipes for pickling olives in his various volumes of writings on Roman agriculture. Dickstein says it's likely that similar methods of preparing olives were used in the Land of Israel at the time. ROMAN-STYLE PICKLED OLIVES 1. Slit the olives. 2. Place the olives in a cold salt solution. 3. Spread dried fennel leaves on the bottom of a jug (in ancient time jugs with a capacity as large as 26 liters were used for this purpose). 4. After several days, remove the olives from the salt solution and wring them. 5. Place green fennel leaves and mastic resin leaves into the jug. 6. Fill the jug up to its neck with olives, spread more dried fennel leaves on top; further fill the jug with 2/3 grape juice or wine and 1/3 concentrated salt solution. Olives pickled in this manner can be eaten for an entire year.