Last fall, my wife (Daphne) and I discovered an industrial park near our home that used dozens of olive trees in their landscaping. Looking up into the trees we could see thousands of green olives there. I mentioned to Daphne that it was time to learn how to cure olives! We agreed to study up on the process and come back in a month when the olives were starting to ripen. Well, when October came around we got our first exchange student (Paloma, from Brazil) and the pace of our lives quickened more each week! After the holidays were over I finally remembered to research how to cure olives!
I remember relatives from Nebraska coming to visit us in the early ‘7os. They were surprised to see nice black olives hanging from the trees where we lived in Orange County (CA). My Dad used to say “try them… they’re great!” Dad loves his practical jokes! Of course, they were nasty and bitter because they were uncured and the faces that my unsuspecting cousins made are forever etched into my memories! Unfortunately, we never looked into methods of curing olives. Everyone assumed that it was a hard process…
On New Years Day I suggested that we go check the olive trees to see if there were any left. I figured that they would have all fallen to the ground or just shriveled up, but I was surprised to see the trees loaded with blackish-purple fruit! Since this was to be an experiment, we just filled a hard hats worth of olives. In hindsight, we should have picked more as all the rest of the olives went to waste I am sure… There were obviously three types of olives there and we picked some of each so we could see how they do. Some were a big, classic looking olive, another was round like a grape and the third looked more like large jellybeans. I wish I knew what each variety was!
There are a few ways to do the curing- lye, water, oil, dry salt and brining. We chose to try the brining method from UC Davis Olives-Safe Methods For Home Pickling (free pdf download) Curing the olives with the brine couldn’t be any easier!
So here is what I did with my very first batch of olives. I guarantee that it won’t be my last!
Soak and rinse olives thoroughly and discard any bad looking or damaged ones.
Sort according to size (or variety if you wish)
Take a knife and score lengthwise in two spots to aid in curing
Place sorted olives in container (I used 1 gallon pickle jars for this )
Make a brine with a ratio of 8 oz of Kosher or Pickling salt to 1 gallon of water and pour over olives. If olives stick out of the brine – weigh them down with a plate or such.
Leave jars out on counter for 7 days and give a stir or shake daily
After 1 week, drain olives and cover with a new brine solution at a ratio of 16 oz of salt to 1 gallon of water. I was amazed that my blackish- purple olives had lightened in color to a reddish purple and the brine had darkened! They smell good, and of course I had to try one. It was still bitter, but I can tell they will be great when they are done.
Let cure for 2 months in the stronger brine. That’s it. It’s not hard. I wish I had known this in 1972!
The olives will be ready around the first week of March. I will update this post with what I have learned from my experiment!