This year I was gifted an abundance of olives, so with a recipe given to me by my mother, I set to work. The first batch of olives came from our family home in a little town called Navarre. Picked by Gary, my two sisters and myself. To prepare the olives, they were sorted and washed, then each olive had to be cut with a knife (a tedious, but necessary part of the process to allow the brine to penetrate the olive, removing the bitterness and acting as a preservative). Next I prepared the brine and chilled it down, then with the blackest olives in one (food grade) bucket, and the greener ones in another, I poured in the brine, ensuring they were well covered, popped a plate on top to hold them down, and finally put them on our front porch where it is nice and cool.
A few days later a friend from Melbourne gifted me two more boxes of olives, so the same process again, and more containers of olives popped up on the front porch.
Each day I made up a fresh batch of brine, drained the olives and added the fresh brine, until the olives had lost almost all of their bitterness. This was an interesting process, as the olives from Navarre took much longer than the olives from Melbourne! I am not sure if it was the climate, the variety of olive or what…
Finally when I was happy with taste, I set to making the final brine, preparing the jars that the olives were to be stored in, and bottled them – each bottle carefully labled with where the fruit came from. With that done, I took a handful of each of the olives, steaped them in fresh water overnight to remove some of the saltiness from them and made up two of our favourite marinade. We now have a good supply of olives to last us through until at least next season, that is if they last that long.
- Freshly picked olives
- Salt see notes
Place the olives into a bucket and cover with cold water to wash them. Strain the olives from the water, retaining both the olives and the water. Measure the amount of water and note the quantity, this will allow you to calculate how much brine you need make. You can now discard the water.
To make your brine add the same amount of fresh clean water that you noted in step 1, to a large pan together with 100 g/3.5 oz of salt for each litre/2 pints of water. Bring the brine to boiling point, stirring to ensure that the salt has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool until it is cold. Pour into food grade bucket large enough to hold the olives and the brine.
Make three slits in the skin of each olive with a small, serrated knife while turning the fruit between the thumb and index finger. (Discard any blemish or bruised fruit) The cutting allows the brine to penetrate the fruit thus drawing out the bitterness, and at the same time preserves it.
Put the cut olives immediately into the brine.
When all the olives are in the brine place a clean plate on top of the olives to keep the them submerged. All olives must be under the liquid.
Each day, pour the liquid away and replace with fresh brine. Repeat this washing process for about 12 days for green olives and about 10 days for black (ripe) olives until the bitterness has nearly gone. The best test is to bite an olive. When the bitterness has nearly gone, the olives are ready for the final salting.
As in step 1, strain the olives from the brine, retaining both the olives and the brine. Measure the amount of brine and note how much. You can now discard the brine. Measure that quantity of clean water into a pan and dissolve the salt, this time 200 g/7 oz of salt for each litre/2 pints of water. Bring the salt water preserving mixture to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside until it is cold.
Place olives into clean jars and then pour the salt water brine over them until the fruit is completely submerged. Top up the bottles with up to one centimetre of olive oil to stop air getting to the fruit.
Seal and lable.
Store for at least 12 months in a cool cupboard.
- When curing olives, you should:
- Use only fresh, unbruised fruit.
- Make sure your utensils are clean.
- Only use glass, stainless steel, unchipped enamel or food grade plastic containers.
- Never use copper, brass, iron or galvanised utensils as they react with the olives and taint the flavour.
- Ensure that the olives are covered in brine and when placed in jars, the brine should cover the olives and then 1 cm of olive oil to prevent any air getting to the olives (the olives float in the brine) .
- Wipe the rim of the jars well to ensure a good seal.
- When choosing your salt, choose a good quality salt such as sea salt, rock salt or kosher salt. Always check to ensure that there are no additives such as thickeners and iodine.
- Apparently this recipe is an old Greek recipe and is very easy.
- Olives can be pickled when green or black.
- Black olives are just ripe olives and are used for pickling and also pressed for olive oil.
- Green olives are used for pickling. In season some of the olives begin to change towards black, at this time it is fairly safe to pick the green olives for pickling.
- If the tree is large, place cloth sheets on the ground and strip the fruit from the tree with your hands or with a rake with suitably spaced prongs. Collect the fruit from the sheet, removing odd stems and leaves as you go.
- When you want to use your olives:
- Drain off the brine.
- Place the olives into another clean jar, or bowl and fill the jar with clean, cool water.
- Cover and leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours, taste them, and if still too salty repeat the process and return to the refrigerator for a further 24 hours. (The plain water removes some of the salt from the olives).
- At this stage you can also add your favourite marinade, if you wish.
- This brining method eliminates the need to use a caustic soda solution that is used in commercial processing of olives.
- Olive Producer (name un-known), Moonambel, Victoria, Australia
- Preserving the Italian Way, P Demaio, 2006.
- Maggie Beer’s Autumn Harvest, M Beer, 2015, Penguin Random House.
- Smoking, Curing & Drying Meat & Fish, TT Turan, 2015, Stackpole Books.
- The Preserving Book, L Brown, 2010, Darling Kindersley..
Once you have cured your olives, you might like to try one of these recipes…
Recently I spent some time with my sisters in Ballarat, where I took a jar of the marinated olives, warning that it was a bit like a lucky dip, that is, you occasionally get a bitter olive, I set the jar on the table – they were a hit.
So if you have an abundance of olives, some friends to help you pick and prepare them, ansd the patience to make the fresh brine daily – in a couple of weeks you will have your own fresh olives – no nasty additives, and prepared with love. Maybe an olive party would be the way to go, with your family and friends sitting around chatting and cutting the olives, the task would be less tedious and definitely much more fun.
Until next time…