BELLA DI CERIGNOLA OLIVES
The cultivation of the “Bella di Cerignola”, the biggest table olive in the world, has very ancient origins. Some authors believe that this cultivar derives from the ancient roman “Orchite” olives, which are mentioned in the writings of Columella. According to others it was introduced from Spain, around 1400, in the territory of Cerignola. In their opinion this would justify the synonym of “Olive of Spain”, used in the past. According to others, however, the synonym “Olive of Spain” would derive from the type of processing used in Cerignola, precisely the “Spanish” or “Sevillian” method. Anyway, a similar plant was never found elsewhere and therefore it can be considered a native variety of the Cerignola area.
The cultivation of this olive has always been an important business in Cerignola. In the beginning processed for domestic use, it has spread gradually, thanks to migration, all over the world and especially in the United States of America, to become one of the most popular table olives. Already in the late nineteenth century Cerignola olives were shipped to the eastern part of the United States of America, in small cone-shaped containers of wood, called “Cugnett”, and in wooden barrels, called “Vascidd”.
Thanks to its food value deriving from the particular pedoclimatic environment in which it is grown, unique and not repeatable in other areas, the “Bella di Cerignola” olive obtained in 2000 the European registration as “La Bella della Daunia PDO”. History, gastronomy, the beauty of the landscape, traditions, habits and the farming culture of the people are added to this value.
The finest, biggest olives, with the necessary requirements requested by the Production Regulations of the PDO La Bella della Daunia, Bella di Cerignola variety, are processed and marketed by the Cooperative, both as green and black olives, with the prestigious European Protected Designation of Origin brand.
The Cooperative processes olives of the Bella di Cerignola variety that come exclusively from the fields of its members. The olives are cultivated with traditional methods and according to the Production specifications of the PDO La Bella della Daunia, under the careful guidance of the agriculturalists of the Cooperative and controlled by the agency AGROQUALITÁ, appointed by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies.
The harvest begins in early October and it is done manually, in order to avoid damage to the olives. Appropriate tarpaulins are used to avoid contact of the olives with the soil. The irrigation is ceased two weeks before the harvest in order to avoid bruising, which could be caused by the excessive swelling of the olives, in case of prolonged irrigation.
After being harvested, the olives are transported to the company in special plastic boxes to be processed immediately.
The above-described details are very important because thanks to them the Cooperative is able to obtain a product that is “intact”, because it has no defects, and “fresh”, because it is processed at the right time.
Once the olives have reached the Cooperative, they are sorted and separated according to size and degree of ripeness.
The greenest ones are destined to the “green” processing with the Sevillian method, the more mature, with an almost wine-red color, to the “black” processing with the Californian method. The two methods mentioned above, are implemented in full respect of the Production specifications for the PDO La Bella della Daunia, under careful guidance of the company’s food technologist and under control of the AGROQUALITÁ control body.
As said, the green olives DOP undergo a transformation process, known as the Sevillian System, that allows to eliminate the bitterness of the raw olives, through the use of sodium solution. This treatment has a duration of time ranging from eight to fifteen hours, depending on the temperature, the size of the olives and their degree of maturation.
Then the olives are repeatedly washed to eliminate the soda.
This way the olives are sweetened and then they are preserved for at least thirty days in water and salt to allow the fermentation, after which they acquire the characteristic green to pale yellow color, the pleasant aroma and their delicate flavor.
After this phase, the olives are ready to be packed in glass jars or tins. These containers undergo a pasteurization heat treatment, which guarantees the consumer a safe product with stable organoleptic, olfactory and visual characteristics for a period of three years.
As said, the black olives DOP undergo a transformation process, known as the Californian system. The olives are put in water and salt for at least thirty days. Whereupon they are sweetened with sodium solution, washed and then oxidized through the introduction of compressed air in the water.
The olives, darkened by oxidation, are then treated with a solution of ferrous gluconate, which fixes the black color.
After this phase, the olives are immediately packed in glass jars or tins. These containers undergo a sterilization heat treatment, which guarantees the consumer a safe product with stable organoleptic, olfactory and visual characteristics for a period of three years.
Other types of processing
Ripe olives can be used not only for processing as black, but also for the so-called natural olives . This method consists in leaving the olives in brine for at least eight months, during which they lose a large part of the bitterness and acquire the characteristic coloring varying from mustard to brown. The greens can undergo a further transformation, covered by a patent for industrial invention, which allows to obtain red olives. Even the black ones can undergo a further transformation, which leads to the obtaining of smoked black olives .