Black olives are typically canned and then sold whole, sliced, or chopped, making them easy to use in a variety of recipes. They have a unique, nutty flavor that makes them a good choice for a snack or for adding to many different recipes where they tend to stand out from the other foods. There are several different kind of black olives; each one is a bit different from the others in terms of taste, but all can be used in similar ways.
In the United States, one of the most common types are mission olives, which are grown throughout much of Southern California and are the result of olive growing endeavors in the missions of California in the 1800s. These olives are a deep, rich purple for much of their lives, but when they are ripe they make a dramatic change to solid black. Other types of black olives are the cerignola, which also comes in light or dark green or red, and the amphissa, which is just a little tart.
Fans of black olives often choose to snack on them whole, eating them straight out of the can, frequently accompanied by beer or wine. You can also stuff them with such things as cream cheese or chopped shrimp to make a variety of olive appetizers. They can be added to a wide variety of foods and are especially good when combined with strong-flavored meats, vegetables, or seasonings. It is common to chop or slice black olives and add them to pizzas, either alone or in combination with toppings such as mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni, and anchovies. They retain their distinctive flavor and texture and are easy to identify by taste, even when covered with other toppings and sauce.
Black olives are an important ingredient in many different spreads and sauces. Chopped or ground olives mixed with garlic, cheeses such as Brie or Parmesan, or other similar foods make good spreads to use on rolls and toast. Olives and garlic are also the main ingredients for pasta sauces, to which you can add butter, mushrooms, and various herbs according to your preferences. To add flavor to casseroles and stews, chop black olives and add them to the other ingredients before cooking. You can also sprinkle slices over salads or mix them into bread dough to create an olive loaf.