Olives Make the World Go ‘Round

Last week I visited a fancy food market and was particularly impressed with the fine selection of olives available from around the world. There were 8-10 bowls laden with beautiful olives of all kinds in a special showcase devoted to olives and olive eating.

Since olives are so versatile, it makes sense to use them often as both decorative and flavorful accents to many dishes. I use them quite often, and have been known to eat them off my fingertips when no one is looking. In fact, I am thinking about devoting a whole section in my family cookbook to recipes containing olives. It will be easy using the recipe template in my cookbook software.

Here are some of the olives I saw at the fancy food market:


Green Queens
Large olives, fermented and packed in brine, either whole, pitted, or pitted and stuffed with pimiento, almonds, capers, onions or jalapeños.

Spanish Manzanilla
Small green olives that are picked young, soaked in lye, then fermented in brine 6 to 12 months. Often stuffed with pimiento (roasted red pepper).

Aside from having one or two in a martini (yes, once in awhile I do indulge in a nip or two), these olives are wonderful chopped and added to softened cream cheese for a great and easy spread for crackers or pita crisps. They are also delicious eaten just by themselves.


Also known as black or mission olives. These are ripe green olives that get their color and flavor from lye curing. They are available pitted, un-pitted, whole, sliced, or chopped.

Greek or Italian
These are the shriveled ones you see in olive displays. These dry cured or salt cured ripe olives are rich in flavor and oil.

These are a kind of Greek olive and are the ones that are purple-black in color. They are usually marinated in a vinegar solution and packed in olive oil or vinegar.

Delicious tiny olives with a dark brown color that are brine cured, then packed in olive oil. Their name reminds me of Salade Niçoise, a favorite main course salad of Julia Child.

I like to chop any of these olives and add them to softened cream cheese (enough olives to turn the cream cheese a darker color). Then I like to mix in chopped walnuts and chives to make a great filling for finger sandwiches, party canapés, or a welcome snack for unexpected guests.

When buying olives, it is a good idea to keep the following helpful recipe equivalents in mind:

Store Unit



4¼ oz can chopped

2/3 cup

2¼ oz can sliced

½ cup

5 ¾ oz can whole pitted colossal

About 25

6 oz can medium pitted

About 55

Spanish, stuffed

2 oz jar

About 20

3 oz jar

About 30

7 oz jar

About 65

Spanish, un-pitted

5 oz jar

About 20

Back at the fancy food market, I was delighted to do a taste test of every olive new to my vocabulary. I was so glad I didn’t know that much about them. That way, my food education and waistline can continue to expand.

Happy Cookbooking!

About Erin Miller

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