Sevillian Olive

Manzanilla and Gordal

The varieties of Manzanilla from Seville and Gordal from Seville -also known as Queen Olive-, comprise the majority of olives produced in the provinces of Seville and Huelva. Their production, harvest and processing are closely linked to the people of this geographic environment, due to the great diversity of uses and customs related to the olive, and because they constitute an important economic engine in the area.

Both varieties are recognised by everybody as traditional, asserting that they have been here forever. Many others say: the best Manzanilla and Gordal are those that are bred under the shade of the Giralda. Despite this, the two varieties have outgrown this geographic area to be cultivated in many other areas, but it is in its origin place, Seville and Huelva, where the Manzanilla and the Sevillian Gordal express their best qualities.

In addition to its place of production, a very characteristic aspect of these varieties is the way they are harvested (which is typically named as verdeo or ordeño) and the way of processing, in a Sevillian style, historically carried out in the homes and the premises of Sevillian producers.

Manzanilla variety

Many people remark on the relationship between the flesh and the pit of this olive, and they express this in the following way: a stuffed olive tastes of pepper or anchovy; a stuffed Manzanilla tastes of a Manzanilla with a touch of anchovy.

Gordal variety

The Gordal from Seville or Queen Olive has no comparison with other olives regarding size. Therefore, it looks exotic to the outsiders who have given it the insignia of la sevillana (the Sevillian). With an excellent bite, it is also the most sensitive, the most delicate.

The Sevillian style

In order to eat the Sevillian olives the first thing that needs to be done is to eliminate the bitterness of the olive that is caused by a glucoside (a sugar) called oleuropein. This process is known as preparing the olives, which is composed of different methods. The most widespread method, and the reason why Sevillian olives are internationally recognised, is to prepare them through the Sevillian style.

This well-known process starts with the immersion of the olives in a diluted lye solution to remove the bitterness, before placing them in salty water so they can ferment naturally. After some time they will be ready for consumption and conservation.

A detailed description of how to prepare Sevillian olives through the Sevillian style is as it follows:

  1. Leave the olives to rest. The olives are left to rest for one or two days to make the skin more resilient.
  2. Wash the olives. In order to clean them after the harvesting.
  1. Boil the olives in caustic soda. The olives are placed in a container. An alkaline solution of approximately 2% is prepared (sodium hydroxide, also called caustic soda) and the olives are covered with this solution, so that they are completely submerged. Concerning different factors like the variety of olive, its ripening and the temperature, the olives can be cooked for between 4 to 7 (Gordal requires longer than Manzanilla). They are ready when the caustic soda has penetrated the olive sufficiently, or, in other words, when the olive has been entirely cooked.
  2. Wash the olives. In this case, washing is done to remove the residue of the caustic solution.
  3. Preserve the olives in brine. The olives are submerged again in another solution for fermentation and preservation. For this, water with salt is prepared in an approximate proportion of 10% per volume (1kg salt per 10 litres of water). In this sense the second process of the typical Sevillian style preparation is favoured: the natural lactic fermentation of the olive. The sugars ferment and the olives remain in an ideal state to be consumed. The time it takes to ferment can vary due to many factors. Experience and testing of the olives will tell us when we can consume them. When fermentation has stopped we can say the process is finished.
Once ready for its usage, the olive can be eaten directly or dressed to your taste. There are many ways of dressing the olives. There are those who add aromatic herbs such as fennel, thyme, or oregano, for example, or pieces of pepper, carrot, garlic, laurel or lemon. There are also those who take them stuffed with anchovies, peppers or almonds.

Each master’s art will ensure that Sevillian Manzanilla or Gordal, whole or stuffed, dressed or undressed, has that flavour for which each consumer is looking for. The result will be a mixture of fragrances, tastes, textures and, of course, emotions that satisfy the senses of those who want the best Sevillian olive.

La aceituna sevillana, el aperitivo perfecto.