Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

Archive for October, 2018

Research Insights – Green or Black Olives

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 19, 2018

I’m a big olive fan. When I was younger, I used to eat cream cheese and black olive sandwiches for lunch. Now I like to eat olives as an accompaniment to any kind of sandwich, or olive tapenade on crackers as an appetizer. I like green olives, but they can be saltier. Then we have Kalamata olives, which I enjoy along with nova on a bagel or in a Greek salad.

Olives

In Trimmed to Death, my hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail goes to interview a person of interest at an olive grove. Along the way, she learns more about this fruit from the olive tree.

What’s the difference between green and black olives?

The olive is a stone fruit, in which a fleshy outer covering surrounds a pit or stone, which in turn encases a seed. The outer flesh of an olive contains up to thirty percent oil. Olives grown for the table are different from olives pressed for oil.

Raw olives have a bitter taste. They need to be processed before we can eat them. They can be sun dried, but more commonly they’re treated to remove the bitter compounds and make them more palatable.

Green olives are picked before they ripen and are soaked in lye. Then they’re washed in water to remove the caustic solution and transferred to fermenting vessels full of brine. The brine is changed on a regular basis to help remove the bitter phenolic compound known as oleuropein. Fermentation occurs by natural microbes present on the olives that survive the lye treatment. These bacteria produce lactic acid that lowers the pH of the brine. This helps stabilize the product against unwanted pathogens. Once fermented, the olives are placed in fresh brine and acid-corrected before going to market.

olives

Black olives are picked after ripening. Tree-ripened olives turn purple due to an accumulation of anthocyanin, a purplish pigment. These ripe olives need treatment before they’re edible. Salt-cured olives, produced in certain Mediterranean countries, are washed and packed in alternating layers of salt. This draws the moisture from the olives, dehydrating and shriveling them. Once cured, they are sold in their natural state without any additives. Oil-cured olives are cured in salt and then soaked in oil. Otherwise, there’s the fermentation process described above.

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California black olives, although labeled as ripe on supermarket cans, are really green olives that have been soaked in lye and washed in water injected with compressed air. This process is repeated until the skin and flesh are oxidized, turning the olives black. Then the olives are washed and put into a fresh brine solution. Ferrous gluconate may be added to set the shiny black color before these olives are canned.

What is a Kalamata olive?

The Kalamata olive from this region in Greece has a deep purple color and is meatier than other varieties. These olives are placed directly into fermentation vessels full of brine until they appear almost dark brown or black. Most Kalamata olives are split to allow the interior to absorb the flavor. Beware these olives are usually sold with their seeds. Even if you get olives that are supposedly pitted, small bits might remain, so be careful when eating them.

Why are black olives sold in cans and green olives in jars?

Early California black olives sold in jars caused cases of botulism. As a result, the industry switched to a canning process. The artificially-ripened olives are heated to 240 degrees. A canned item can tolerate this temperature, but not a glass jar.

Green olives don’t undergo the addition of oxygen and are packed in brine. The salinity is high enough and the pH levels are low enough to inhibit bacterial growth, so they don’t have to be sealed in metal cans and cooked. These olives remain edible for many years stored in jugs, crocks, or jars. No refrigeration is required until opened.

Excerpt from Trimmed to Death

Hairstylist Marla Vail is talking to a Florida olive grower.

Olive Branch

“Some olive varieties may be edible off the tree if they are sun dried first. Otherwise, the curing process can take a few days with lye treatment, or a few months with brine or salt packing.”

“What do you mean, with lye?” Marla wrinkled her nose at the thought.

“Lye processing is mainly used with green or semi-ripe olives,” Ben explained, as they crossed over to another row and then headed back toward the main complex. “The olives are soaked in lye for eight to ten hours to hydrolyse the oleuropein. Then they’re washed in water to remove the caustic solution and transferred to fermenting vats filled with brine. Or, you can avoid the lye process and put them directly into fermentation vessels. There are other methods as well. One technique involves artificially darkening the olive to make it appear black.”

This was news to her. “Are table olives different from olives used to make olive oil?”

“Yes. Some olives are grown to cure and eat, while others are prized for their use in making extra virgin olive oil. Olive mills press the oil, and the sooner you get the product to consumers, the better the quality of the oil. Demand has increased since the health benefits of olive oil have been recognized. In the U.S., we currently import about ninety-eight percent of the millions of gallons we consume per year. You’re not always getting the product you think you are with these imports. Fraud has become a multi-million dollar enterprise.”

Olive Oil Scams are a topic for another time. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this fruit and are now eager to check out the varieties in your local grocery store. Disclaimer: This information is based on my interpretation of the data I read. Any errors are unintentional.

Are you an olive fan? If so, which variety do you like best?

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TRIMMED TO DEATH

Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, Marla discovers a dead body in the strawberry field. Can she unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life? Recipes Included!

TRIMMED TO DEATH eBook

Get your copy here:

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After Your Book Launch

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 16, 2018

What should you be doing in the days following your new book release? Promotion doesn’t end when your book launch is over. You’ve tossed the ball into the court. Now you need to keep it rolling. Let’s say you have sent advance reading copies to reviewers and are participating in a blog tour or doing guest posts along the way.

Book Launch

What else can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Start a file for Amazon reviews and copy down each review as it’s posted, along with the date and reviewer. Do the same for Goodreads. Repeat for bloggers and other review sites. If you start getting tons of reviews, skip this step and go to item two.
  • Check these names against your personal reviewer list and mark each one as done. Then you’ll know which reviewers followed through so you can approach them with your next release.
  • Send a thank you email to the reviewers on your personal list who have posted.
  • Send a reminder to the reviewers who have not yet posted.
  • You should have already written a page of tweets and posts for your new book. For each reviewer, note their Twitter and Facebook handles. Now pull relevant quotes from these reviews and add them to your Tweet page. Remember to tag the reviewer.
  • Also write a tweet or post for each stop on your blog tour. Tag your hosts and add a link to their site.
  • Set your Twitter posts to rotate automatically at a site like SocialJukebox.com or schedule them ahead of time at Hootsuite. Space out your Facebook posts between your own pages and your groups.
  • Add quotes from reviews to your website.
  • Check your Amazon book’s page. If you don’t see reviews posted by your reviewers, you can add them as quotes via Amazon Author Central.
  • If you are doing a blog tour, return daily to each site and respond to comments. Leave your own comment thanking the host for having you there.
  • Get the specific URL for each post about your book and update it on your Appearances page. Shorten the link for tweets.
  • If you’re running a contest, don’t forget to mention this to your followers.
  • Remember to promote your friends’ books and retweet their posts so it’s not all about you.
  • If you’re doing concurrent sales on your other books, you’ll need to advertise these as well.
  • Gauge the effectiveness of the newsletter you sent out the day of your book release. Update your mailing list by removing bounces and unsubscribes.
  • If you boosted your Facebook post, was it effective? How many engagements and clicks did you get?
  • Keep meticulous records so that when you have another release, you can contact the reviewers who posted about your book and drop the people who got an advance copy but never responded. Then you can seek new readers to fill in the gaps.

I’m sure you can think of many more activities you’re doing in the couple of weeks following your book release. It’s a busy time when the pace seems relentless, but it will ease off. You’ll have to keep the promotional ball rolling, but at least it’ll be more of a steady pace than a race. What would you add to this list?

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Museum of Science

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 12, 2018

We took a break and visited the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It had been years since we’d last visited when our kids were young. The museum has two levels plus a gift shop, concession stand, and IMAX theater. We bought tickets to the exhibits only, bypassing the films and the flight simulator or Mars Rover experiences. There’s also an Everglades Airboat Adventure, which we chose not to explore since we’ve been on the real thing in the past.

We began our tour in the Florida Ecoscapes section. Here displays showed various South Florida habitats and some of the creatures that lived in them.

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An impressive aquarium section had colorful tropical fish and this spiny lobster. It’s a good thing the lobster and shrimp that I eat in a restaurant come without the heads and antennas or I’d lose my appetite fast.

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A section on prehistoric Florida had this giant replica of a sea creature whose only predator was the whale. An overenthusiastic young tour guide told us how its cartilage structure instead of bones meant mainly teeth were found to prove its existence. He may have said the creatures died off due to lack of food during a mini-ice age, but I was only half-listening to his rapid-fire talk. He was very knowledgeable if you wanted a thorough explanation of the era.

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The otter section is nicely done, with a rocky waterfall that gives the animals room to play.

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Naturally there’s a hurricane section where you can see a water spout form and watch news broadcasts about various storms. Downstairs also has a kids section that looks like fun for smaller children.

Upstairs are the flight simulators and IMAX theater. Models of aircraft cockpits tempt you to sit in them and push buttons to allow you to virtually cruise down a runway. I ended up blowing up my aircraft as we veered onto the grass.

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There’s a health section where you can read about various bodily functions and medical robotic techniques.

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An area with brain teasers could keep you occupied all day trying to fit the jigsaw pieces into a square shape and doing other tasks. The biggest exhibit was on The Science of Archimedes, a Greek scientist eventually murdered by a Roman soldier. He designed a great many apparatus that were replicated here.

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A brief area with rocks and minerals drew my interest, followed by the inevitable dinosaurs.

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This was a fun visit that took about two hours to roam around inside and check out the gift shop. There’s no café on premises but the museum map shows one under construction. Parking is next door in a public garage. So if you’re in town looking for something indoors to do, visit our Museum of Discovery and Science. It’ll bring out the curious child in you.

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