The Oliva Ascolana del Piceno PDO refers to green table olives, either in brine or stuffed and bread-crumbed, belonging to the Ascolana Tenera olive variety.
The production area of Oliva Ascolana del Piceno PDO is within 89 municipalities in the provinces of Ascoli Piceno and Fermo in The Marches region, and in the Province of Teramo, in the Abruzzo region.
Oliva Ascolana del Piceno PDO is produced in three types: in Brine, “au natural” in Brine and Stuffed. The olives used are generally harvested by hand, by gently “stripping” the fruit from the trees, in the period between September 10th and October 20th. After picking and sorting, the olives are de-bittered, which is necessary to obtain their naturally bitter flavour. The Sivigliano System is used for both the Brine and Stuffed typologies, which involves the product being immersed in a solution of sodium hydroxide (1.5-3%) for 8-12 hours, followed by washing in order to reduce the residue. For the “au natural” in Brine typology, the olives are de-bittered naturally, with a method that involves the fruit being immediately immersed in brine with 8% concentrated sea salt (NaC1). In this case, fermentation and preserving lasts for a minimum period of 10 months. Olives destined to be Stuffed are destoned and filled with a pre-cooked mixture of pork or beef (originating from the PDO area, with the possible addition of chicken and/or turkey at a maximum of 10%), cheese, eggs, white wine, onion, carrots, celery, nutmeg or other aromas. The stuffed olives are then dipped in flour, beaten egg and then breadcrumbs. The final product should be deep fried before consumption.
Appearance and Flavour
Oliva Ascolana del Piceno PDO in Brine has a uniform colour ranging from green to straw yellow; the flesh is dense, compact and neither shrivelled or grainy and has a characteristic fermented aroma and a slightly acidic flavour, with a bitter aftertaste (more evident in the “au Natural” typology). It is fragrant and crunchy when eaten. Stuffed Oliva Ascolana del Piceno PDO has a slightly irregular elongated shape, with a detectable greenness in parts. Once broken, the breadcrumbs remain attached to the olive and the filling is compact. It has a medium-strong smell, with fruity notes of green olives and spices.
The presence of olive trees in the Piceno area is secular, coinciding with when the Phoenicians and Greeks introduced them into Italy. In Roman times they were known as ulivae picenae and they enriched the tables of many banquets. Later, the rationalization of agronomical practices on olive trees was thanks to the Olivetan Benedictine Monks, demonstrating a local economy that was mainly based on the preparation of table olives. References to stuffing Ascolana olives date back to 1600. The origins of the meat-based filling, on the other hand, are more recent, dating back to the XIX century.
Oliva Ascolana del Piceno PDO in Brine should be conserved in a cool, dry place, while the Stuffed olives must be kept in the fridge. The olives are generally served as a side dish or used as an ingredient in local dishes. The stuffed bread-crumbed olives should be eaten after having been deep-fried. As they are extremely filling, they can be served as a dish on their own.
The product is marketed as Oliva Ascolana del Piceno PDO in Brine, “au natural” in Brine and Stuffed. It is sold in suitable containers or packaging.
Although the filling is what characterises Stuffed Oliva Ascolana del Piceno PDO, it should not overpower the fruit: the weight of the finished product should therefore be made up of at least 40% of destoned olives.