My mother-in-law, Amptee, is a very traditional Jordanian woman, having lived on and from the desert land all her life, and is a wealth of knowledge that has been passed on from generation to generation.
The olive is a very traditional part of the Jordan diet and culture, as it has for 1000s of years. In fact, not far from our site there are olive trees that are more than 2000 years old and still fruiting well.
‘Amptee’ actually means ‘auntie’, and this is what everyone who works on our project calls her, but her actual name is Amnah Talak, of the Al Dasaat tribe from Gore Safi in the Jordan Valley. Amptee grew up on the land herding sheep and goats and working on her family’s farm. My wife, Nadia, is the oldest of her 11 children — eight daughters and three sons — and now she has 25 grandchildren. She is one of the strongest, kindest and hardest working women I have ever met and she anchors our project in Jordan like a foundation stone. I care for her dearly, like my own mother who I have lost.
Amptee is all about being totally appropriate and practical in her approach to the land, its produce and its processing, so when it comes to processing her olives on our project she takes the path of least resistance. If plastic bowls, bottles and bags are the easiest and cheapest and they work fine, then that is what she uses. Trendy, hippy or foodie culture means nothing to her — everything is just about real things in everyday life and is all taken in her strong stride.
Amptee picks the olives straight from the trees and then in the kitchen puts a cut with a knife in each olive before placing them in a tub of water for three days, changing the water each day, after which she then puts them in a fully saturated salty water solution for a month. After that month, she then puts them into a plastic bag, along with pieces of chili and slices of lemon, with minimum salt water — just enough to cover them — and she puts the bag into a jar. They are ready to use a week later. The oil rises from the olives to the surface, and they taste wonderful as a real organic desert olive.