Curing olives requires no fancy ingredients or expensive equipment: just salt, water and patience. Curing removes the bitter compound oleuropein from olives, to make them edible. Curing can be done at all stages of ripeness, from hard green olives to riper black olives.
There are as many methods as there are experts. Some will tell you it is imperative to cut into the olives, right down to the pip, before brining. Others believe this is not necessary.
There are essentially two different cures – wet and dry. Both use large plastic buckets with lids, and non-iodized salt.
- This simple method can be applied to both green and black olives. The green olive contains higher levels of oleuropein, so first submerge green olives in a large bucket of water for 7-12 days, changing the water every day.
- Rinse the olives, discarding defective fruit. Use a sharp knife to make a slit in each olive, down to the pip, or bash lightly with a mallet - not too hard. Some omit this step.
- Fill a 20-litre bucket with a lid up to ¾-full with olives.
- Dissolve 1kg of salt in 20 litres of water and pour over the olives - right to the brim until it starts overflowing.
- Cover with the lid and store in a cool place for about 6-12 months.
- If you prefer more bitter olives, soak for only 3-4 months. A layer of scum will form on the top. This is an essential part of the curing process and should not be removed.
- Once brined sufficiently (check by tasting), remove the olives, discard the brine and rinse well under running water.
- Pick out and discard any soft or damaged olives, then soak in fresh water for 2 days.
- Drain, pack into sterilised jars and cover with new brine made with 30ml (2 tbsp) salt and 250ml (1 cup) wine vinegar for every litre of water.
- Add flavouring such as dried rosemary or thyme, bay leaves, dried garlic, peppercorns, crushed coriander seeds or a strip of lemon peel.
- Pour at least a centimetre of olive oil over the top to protect the olives, seal and leave to mellow for a couple of weeks before eating.
Dry Salt Curing
This method is particularly good for bigger olives. Olives prepared this way may be more bitter, but will cure in a shorter time, about 5-6 weeks.
- Wash the olives and discard any bruised fruit.
- For every 1 kg of olives, use 500g coarse salt, ideally kosher salt.
- Layer the fruit and salt in large plastic containers with holes in the bottom to drain the juices, and turn the olives every week to ensure they are all covered with salt.
- Once cured (check by tasting), rinse very well in a couple of changes of water and soak in fresh water for 1-2 days.
- Drain and seal in sterilised jars with new brine, herbs for flavouring and oil (follow the same process described above) and allow to mellow before eating.
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