Something hit me last week during Thanksgiving shopping, while standing at the deli counter in Lombardy's in Mattituck, LI. I realized that most people can not tell the difference between olives and have a hard time shopping for them. A woman next to me started asking me a lot of questions, I guess I looked credible? She was trying to remember which ones her Dad likes, I finally pinpointed what she was looking for: Gaeta.
I on the other hand was buying my go to cheese/salumi plate olives: Castelvetrano. The small, bright green Sicilian olives with buttery texture. They are heaven.
Here is a quick guide to Italian olives to help you out next time you are in your local Italian specialty shop.
Brine Cured vs Oil Cured-The brine cured olives will be smooth and plum while the oil cured ones will be more wrinkled and coated in oil.
Castelvetrano-A bright green Sicilian olive, great for snacking and of course for cheese plates. Almost always with the pit and brine cured.
Cerignola-From Puglia, come in red, black and green. Brine cured and quite large. They are also great for snacking/cheese plates. They are mild and buttery.
Gaeta-Dark purple or black. Soft tender flesh, citrus flavor. Can be found both brine cured or oil cured. Great in pasta, especially Puttanesca.
Saracena-From Sicily, small dark black olives. Cured in salt and more pungent. Great for pizza!
Taggiasca- Smiliar to a French Nicoise olive, small with a lot of flavor. Grown in Liguria. Great for tapenade.
Of course you can mix them all together, a variety is great. I personally love when they are marinated in oil and citrus rind, amazing.....
I hope this helps, olives make a great addition to any salumi or cheese plate, they are great in pasta, pizza and salads. They also make the perfect hostess gift when attending a dinner party.