Sunday, May 1, 2011

Curing olives

I'm surrounded by them - olive trees.

They're everywhere in California. I don't have much need to cure my own because I can always get tasty olives at the market, but I couldn't resist. I cured olives back late last year, but just broke into my first jar just this week.


  • 4 C fresh green olives

  • Lots of water

  • 1/8 C Kosher salt(1/4C salt per quart of water for the brine)

  • 2 C vinegar

  • 1 lemon, quartered and sliced

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 2 cayenne peppers, thick chopped

  • 1 t oregano (optional)


Step One

Olives are pretty much inedible until you cure them. They are extremely bitter and the chemical that causes that must be leached out. Most people do this with lye, but I have enough dangers in the kitchen so I opted to try another method. First, you must crack the skins of all the olives.

Step Two

The easiest way to do this is to lay them on a cutting board and strike them with a rolling pin. Start kinda soft and work up to whacking them because they're more delicate than they look.

Step Three

Place the cracked olives in a quart mason jar (or some other food safe storage container). Cover completely with water.

Step Four

Use something to keep the olives from popping up above the water level - they have to be completely submerged to keep from oxygen and rot. I used a small plastic bag with about a 1/4 C of water in it. If your container is large enough, you can use a small plate to push the olives under the water.

Step Five

Store in a cool dark place. Empty and refresh the water every day. Many recipes use salt water for this, but I saw a few that used plain water and decided to try that (I didn't want to waste all that salt). Each time you change the water, you'll notice that it's kinda oily and the water is discolored. This is the natural oil (you know, like olive oil) and the bitter chemical leaching out. Continue to change the water till the olives start to lose the green color and the water that you pour off is relatively clear (about 1 week to 10 days).

Step Six

The last time you pour off the water, measure it. Use this to gauge how much of the final brine to make. Boil water and add Kosher salt. Stir till it dissolves. Mix a half and half solution of the brine with vinegar.

Step Seven

Mix the olives with the lemon, garlic, peppers, and spices.

Step Eight

Put in sterile pint jars and cover with the brine, clean the rims of the jars, and cover with canning lids. Process in a hot water bath (20 min) or pressure canner (10 min). If you don't have a canner, store in the fridge. After about 3 weeks, the olives should be pickled and ready to eat.

Effort: Difficult
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 month
Total time: 1 month
Yield: 2 pint jars

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