green cracked souri olives

This isn’t just any old jar of olives, if you like olives, you’ll understand how important their variety and quality are. Ever since we left Lebanon we’ve been trying to find ones in the UK that could match the taste of Lebanese souri olives. To no avail. So, there was nothing for it, we decided we would just have to import them ourselves, and make it possible for other olive lovers in the UK to enjoy them too!

souri olives youssef fares

Souri olives are typical of the eastern Mediterranean. Their origins go back to the Phoenician period. Olive trees were shipped to Europe from the Phoenician port city of Tyre, sour in Arabic, hence the name souri. Having been grown in the land for so long, the variety has become ideally suited to the “terroir” and is therefore more able to adapt to the challenges of a changing climate than some of the new varieties being planted with the hope of an increase in yield. 

Curing olives is an important part of Lebanese culinary tradition. Families buy quantities of fresh green olives in the late autumn to preserve at home using their own recipe.  The olives are left to soak in water for 3-5 days, changing the water several times until it runs clear.  Then they are “cracked”, using a heavy wooden mallet, before being put in a preserving solution, to release their flavour and improve the curing process.  Zejd’s recipe adds a little white grape vinegar to the salt and water.  

In Lebanon olives appear at most meals.  When served, they are drained from the brine, a little olive oil is added along with a squeeze of lemon to give them a glossy coat. They make a fresh addition to a breakfast of labneh, za’atar, cucumbers and flat bread.

souri green cracked olives

Rather than throwing the liquid away, why not keep it in the fridge?  When you’re making a stew, sauce or soup, add a tablespoon or two (always taste first to check for saltiness).  It adds depth and flavour to your dish – and it’s a canny way of making your purchase go further!

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