Olives remain a fundamental dish of hospitality when friends come over. It is hard to beat good olives in a bowl as a companion to a modern cocktail or glass of excellent wine.
BARRAL, an amazing and unique company in France, produces the amazing and unique olives we sell through Qualifirst. They’ve been active in the Nice region in Southern France for more than 100 years, and Qualifirst Foods has been buying product from them for more than 50 years.
You can tell a pail of BARRAL olive has been opened by the fresh aroma. Tasting these olives is a pleasure because at BARRAL, as at Qualifirst, the rule is taste + purity first.
Quite simply, the people at BARRAL are experts in olives. Nice is a city that grew on the Mediterranean trade with olives and olive oil produced in the region since Phoenician times. People of the region joke that there is olive oil in their blood, but the fact remains that the region knows olives.
Expertise in olives means that BARRAL is able to provide some exotic and amazingly flavourful olives.
Spanish cuisine and the tapas philosophy is very much alive and well in North America. Thankfully, BARRAL produces an Andalusian Tapas Bar Mix which is a selection of olives for a more casual olive bowl. They’re extremely fresh and economical.
One interesting, exotic olive is the Beldi Cut Purple from Morocco. This mountain grown olive is picked when they have just turned from green to a red-dove gray. Softer than green olives, these olives have a delicious, slightly nutty flavour and a hint of tanginess on the finish. With the current interest in Moroccan cuisine, serving this particular olive is a real crowd-pleaser because it steps out of the norm of traditional olives.
A very typical olive in Southern France is the Picholine. These BARRAL Picholine olives have a refreshing summer taste I like to describe as “a pistachio cornichon in olive oil”, but the real quality you experience is the crunch.
That’s because these olives are fresher than most olives available on the market which can be soggy, older olives that are shamefully tasteless. Not so with these olives. These Picholines are a great summer patio olive and equally interesting, served in fall and winter, you can literally drag summer inside any time of year.
Speaking of ‘traditional olives’, competitive price wars have driven olives such as the Kalamata and common black olives down to increasingly lower quality. If you want to experience how far basic Kalamata quality has fallen, simply taste these BARRAL Kalamata Olives and compare them to any Kalamata olive sold on the marketplace. The difference is night and day and it’s obvious, the BARRAL olives are fundamentally better.
Typical of southern France and name for the Nice area is the legendary “Nicoise Olives”. These small black olives are the Calletier olives which grow in Nice stretching into Liguria, Italy.
This olive has big pits, but they have a deep and enjoyable taste. Qualifirst has tapped into the BARRAL expertise to obtain pitted Nicoise olives, and believe me, it is tough to pit these tiny olives. They are an essential ingredient in the classic “Salad Nicoise” and are prized for their rich flavour. Think almond with hazelnut as the back note and you have the Nicoise taste. They’re also the perfect olive to use to make a “real” tapenade.
These pitted oil-cured olives might look a little odd, but this olive is appreciated for its uncompromising olive taste. This olive is great for people avoiding salt. This is, however, a strong olive and therefore great for Chefs that want to have the olive taste solidly represented in their recipe.