The Manzanilla and Gordal Olives of Seville

Tradition and reputation

Sevilla’s Manzanilla and Gordal varieties make up the majority of the olive production in the province of Seville and Huelva. The production, collection and processing of olive oil is closely linked to people in this geographical area, due to the great diversity uses and customs related to the olive and for being an important economic engine in the area.

Both varieties are recognized by all as traditional and claim that they have been here for a lifetime. Many others say: The best Manzanilla and the best Gordal is the one that grows in the shadow of the Giralda.  Nevertheless, the two varieties have crossed this geographical area for then to be grown in many other áreas, but it is located in their place of origin, where the Manzanilla y Gordal de Sevilla express their best qualities.

In addition to their place of production, a very characteristic aspect of these varieties is harvesting that is called greening or milking, and their elobration in the Seville-style that were executed in the homes and premises of Sevillian producers.

MANZANILLA VARIETY

Many emphasize their relationship with the pulp bone from this olive and express it as the following: a stuffed olive tastes like pepper or anchovy; a stuffed manzanilla tastes like manzanilla with hints of anchovy. It then stands out, the small bone compared to others and its large proportion of meat.
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GORDAL VARIETY

The Seville Gordal has no comparison with another olive in terms of size. Thus, he receives a dose of exoticism for those from outside, who came to give him the distinctive “la sevillana”. With an excellent bite, it is also the most sensitive, the most delicate.
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Identity and Sevillian olive grove

The olive grove is the main vegetal formation of Andalusia and one of the most extended in Spain, representing the main forest mass of all Europe. It is not just a crop, it represents a landscape, a culture and a history. It is an agroecosystem that must be valued as the manifestation of a set of social and ecological relationships from an environmental, territorial and cultural perspective. Only then will we understand its importance for the people of Seville.

In Seville, the cultivation of Manzanilla and Gordal olives varieties in Seville is part of the history of the territory and its people. An unbeatable ecological adaptation and a high degree of recognition by local society has made possible its survival until these days as a crop of great relevance, with important natural, social and economic implications.

The maintenance of the Manzanilla and Gordal olive groves in Seville are the result of the historical accumulation of a set of local knowledge and practices always sensitive to innovation and adaptation.

The olive groves are also closely linked to a series of values, feelings and way of understanding the world that makes them essential to know the local culture. Two expressions of local knowledge about olive grove management are identified as quality signs of olives.

On the one hand, greening or milking, or what is the same, manual collection. During the greening, the verdeaores, men and women, organized in groups or crews in variable numbers, collect the olives directly from the tree with their hands, throwing them in a basket called macaque. The olives thus harvested suffer minimal damage, which contributes to the integrity and quality of the fruit.

On the other hand, brine preparation in Seville style. This historical form of preparation is part of the local cuisine and is widely used in homes where these olives are consumed. The Manzanillas and Gordales thus prepared can be preserved from one season to another. The transformation industry has managed to maintain the essence of this procedure and reproduce it on a large scale to bring it directly to the consumer’s table.

Sevillian Style

A detailed description on how to prepare Sevillian Olives in Sevillian style is as follows:
  1. Let the olives stand. For one or two days the olives are allowed to rest to make their skin more resistant.
  2. Wash the olives. Thus they remain clean after collection.

To be able to eat the Sevillanas Olives it is first necessary to eliminate the bitterness they have, which is caused by a glycoside (a sugar) called oleuropein. This process is called preparing olives, and there are different ways to do it. The most widespread, and for which the Sevillian Olives are internationally recognized, is to prepare them in the Sevillian style.

Preparing the Seville-style olives consists of two basic processes: submerging these olives in bleach so that the oleuropein leaves the olive – this also makes the following process be favored -, and; immerse them in salt water so that they ferment naturally, being ready for consumption and conservation.

  1. Cook the olives in caustic. To do this, the olives are placed in a bowl. An approximately 2% alkaline solution is prepared (sodium hydroxide, also called caustic soda) is used and the olives are covered with this solution, so that they are completely submerged. Depending on many factors, among which the olive variety, its ripening point and the temperature stand out, the olives can be cooked between 4 and 7 hours (the gordal variety takes longer than chamomile). This occurs when the caustic has penetrated the olive well, that is, when the olive has been cooked whole.
  2. Wash the olives. This is done to remove the remains of the caustic solution.
  3. Keep the olives in brine. The olives are immersed again in another solution for fermentation and conservation. For this, salt water is prepared in an approximate proportion of 10% by volume (1kg salt per 10 liters of water). In this way the second process of Sevillian-style preparation is favored: the natural lactic fermentation of the olive. The sugars ferment and the olive is in an ideal state to be consumed. Fermentation time may vary according to many factors. The experience and go testing the olive will tell us when we can consume it. When the fermentation stops, we can say that the process is over.
Once ready for consumption, the olive can be eaten directly or seasoned to taste. There are many ways to dress the olives. There are those who add herbs such as fennel, thyme, oregano, for example, or cuts of pepper, carrot, garlic, bay leaf or lemon. There are those who like to take them stuffed with anchovies, peppers or almonds.

The arts of each teacher will make a good Manzanilla or Gordal Sevillana, whole or stuffed, seasoned or not, have that flavor sought by each consumer. The result will be a mixture of smells, flavors, textures and, of course, emotions that satisfy the senses of those who want to eat the best Seville Olive.

La aceituna sevillana, el aperitivo perfecto.