15 April - by Emily Mantilla
Smoking cigarettes might now be banned in all public places, but smoking food is a big feature at Tasting Australia – even extending to Kalamata olives.
Esposito, a small family-owned olive grove from Nepean Bay on Kangaroo Island, is keen to inform Tasting Australia festival attendees about the interesting flavours that result when its Kalamata are smoked.
Michael Esposito, the company’s general manager, said it was his father Domenico’s idea to try the smoking technique to enhance the natural gentle, smoky flavour of the Kalamatas, which is present even when olives are traditionally prepared using brine and red wine vinegar.
Learning to smoke olives and achieve a consistent flavour was a complex trial and error process, with the team playing around with both hot and cold smoking techniques. By collaborating with organic and permaculture producer Bridgette Bruce from Petite Provence, a process was identified that converts smoke gas to a liquid that led to a Eureka moment.
Michael says it takes nine months from the smoked Kalamata Esposito range to complete its journey from tree to table. This is a much longer process than traditional curing, because Michael’s olives are not split during their brining process.
Esposito’s smoked olives are also brined in only a six per cent salt liquid, to remove their trademark bitterness before smoking, which results in a product that is not too salty. A little red wine vinegar is added at the end to balance the product, allowing a natural olive flavour to shine through.
Michael says customers describe the flavour profile of Esposito’s product in many different ways. Even those who don’t like smoked meats or seafood tend to like the smoked olives because the flavour is delicate.
Smoked Kalamatas are the perfect accompaniment to a cheese board, particularly with smoked cheese or grilled haloumi.
Whilst visiting Esposito, also try the little Koreniki Greek olives. Their higher oil content of about 30% compared with other olive cultivars (which traditionally sit at 20% oil content) is responsible for robust floral and grassy notes.
Michael is an olive oil judge at the Royal Adelaide and Royal Sydney Shows and with the Australian Olive Association. Get him to talk through the process of professional olive oil judging, then try it yourself. Start by warming oil in a specially shaped glass by gently rubbing your hands, then sipping and swirling the oil in your mouth. Counting how many “coughs” you make after swallowing the oil corresponds to the body of an oil. Doing all this makes for quite an enjoyable education.
Esposito can be found in the Suprette stall in Tasting Australia’s Town Square, along with a large collection of South Australian food, culinary equipment and beauty products. The smoked Kalamatas can also be purchased at the Kangaroo Island Store at Stall 17 at the Adelaide Central Market.