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Continued: Letter from France: Of olives and hard work

  • Article by: STEVE HOFFMAN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 20, 2012 - 11:50 AM

"Steve," began Jean-Luc, with just a slight strain in his voice from reaching high for a branch.

And we passed the rest of the morning deep in conversation.

A successful effort

A pleasant and leisurely several hours would fill three buckets with about 12 gallons of olives. Think three large drywall-compound buckets mostly full. In the afternoon, back in Jean-Luc and Nicole's dim, stone garage, we would brine the olives in a lye solution, regularly cutting sample olives in half, through the afternoon and into the evening, in order to track the progress of the brine through the flesh toward the pit. When the brining was complete, we would rinse them thoroughly and Jean-Luc would spend the rest of the week changing their soaking water every 24 hours. In eight days or so, they would can them in saltwater, and there would be olives to eat.

Jean-Luc does not have a computer. He has never seen the Eiffel Tower. He measures time in seasons. Grape harvest season is past, and fig season is fading. Hunting season is around the corner. But now it is la saison des olives, and he has just picked a year's worth, plus a little extra for brother, sister, houseguests and a next-door neighbor from Minnesota who spends a lot of time back home on his iPhone, thinking of himself as a very productive fellow.

Steve Hoffman is a Twin Cities tax preparer and real estate broker who always cleans his plate. Reach him at hoffmans.france@gmail.com.

  • Editor's note: Steve and Mary Jo Hoffman of St. Paul are living in a small village in the Languedoc region of southern France with their two children this fall. Steve writes a monthly letter about their experiences, illustrated with Mary Jo's photographs.
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