Bella di Cerignola olives, or Cerignola, are enormous Italian olives with an irresistibly mild, buttery flavor and tender bite. These mild “beauties” are recommended for the olive-eating newbies of the food world due to their mild flavor.
Bella di Cerignola olives come from the Foggia region of Puglia, Italy, and they are named for the town of Cerignola. Puglia has the largest coastline in mainland Italy and some of the hottest temperatures in the country. This results in a hot, dry Mediterranean climate that is ideal for growing olives. The Bella di Cerignola variety has Protected Designation of Origin, or PDO status, which means these olives must be grown, harvested, and processed in the specific region of Foggia in Puglia, Italy.
Bella di Cerignola olives are harvested by hand in October and November when they reach peak ripeness.
After the olives are harvested, they are sorted by color and degree of ripeness so they can be processed correctly. Cerignola olives are soaked in fresh water and lye for 8 to 15 hours, which helps them lose their bitterness. After that, the olives are washed several times until every trace of lye is removed. Then, the olives are fermented in a saltwater solution that brings out the natural mild, sweet flavor.
In addition to the natural green color, the PDO governing the production of these olives allows for two other colors to be produced—black and red. The black olives are achieved by both oxidation of the olives during processing as well as the addition of ferrous gluconate in order to keep a uniform black color. This process is almost exactly the same as is done to canned California ripe olives. Red Cerignola olives are colored with red food dye to create the vibrant color that is a novelty particularly popular during holidays.
The Bella di Cerignola’s mild flavor pairs well with sharp, hard cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, as well as mild and creamy mozzarella. Salty cured meats such as salami or prosciutto complement the buttery texture and sweetness of this varietal. In Italy, Bella di Cerignola olives are enjoyed as an “aperitif” to stimulate the appetite before a meal. They also work well in martinis and salads.
Bella di Cerignola Olives are PDO protected and can only be grown in the specific region of Foggia in Puglia, Italy.
The translation of “Bella di Cerignola” is Beauty of Cerignola.
Did You Know…?
Bella di Cerignola olives can sometimes grow to be the largest olive variety in the world.