Brine Curing Olives

Olives in bowl
Olives in bowl

I’ve been curing olives for a few years now. It used to be easier when living in Toronto. It was merely a quick walk to the local fruit market, which thankfully the city is still rich with, to buy a bag of raw olives. Now living in Cobble Hill,  it’s much more difficult to find fresh olives, as they’re not available locally.

Fortunately for me, I was headed to Vancouver on family business last week. I called Bosa Foods, the only place I’ve found reasonably close (a mere 4 hours away by ferry and car) where one can buy them, and was told that they had just received their annual shipment of green olives (black ones will come a bit later in the season, sometime next month).

I made sure to pick up two 10k bags, as last year the single bag I’d bought had been barely enough for our own annual use, and didn’t allow for any gifts (or product for my farm stand). To be sure of maximum freshness and quality, I began to prepare them the minute I got home.

Soaking Olives
Soaking Olives

The first stage of curing involves leaching the tannins out to reduce the natural bitterness of the olive fruit, the second is brining them, either in a wet or dry cure. These instructions are for wet cure, I’ll try dry cure when I get the dark olives next month and write about that process as they progress.

There are several pages online with instructions for how to wet cure olives, some of which suggest using lye, a caustic solution, to soften the olives prior to bringing. There are also instructions for using merely water, which struck me as wiser and which in practice, yields excellent olives.

I’ve seen instructions for whacking them with a mallet, which I tried once, and shan’t be attempting again. Not only did the mallet recoil and almost hit me in the forehead at least twice, but the olives when cured, were bruised. Meh.

Slicing Olives
Slicing Olives

The Greek method, slicing them on either side lengthwise, is perfect…but have the water bath ready to pop them into immediately, or you will have badly oxidized slashes on either side, as this happens very quickly…as I learned last year. That would have been a bigger problem if I’d had enough to give away, so I guess it was just as well that I made fewer then.

So, all that said, this is easy peasy. Get olives, fill a jug with water (I use a party drinks dispenser with spigot, so that it’s easier to empty each day, as the water needs to be refreshed daily). Slice olives into water bath. Change water daily, after one week add brine and leave to age for a month in a loosely covered jar or crock, stirring daily if possible. Put a weight (like a plate) on the top to keep them submerged, or they will go mouldy and infect the batch.

Olives in jars
Olives in jars

Use a 1:10 (10%) salt:water ratio. If you have kids and want to amuse them with science, test the density of the solution by floating an egg on top. If it floats, you have enough salt. If not, add more.

It will be another few days before I am ready to brine the current batch, for which I’ll use seawater which has been evaporating to about 1:6 and boil it down to the required density…mainly because I live at the beach and a local salt company uses the same spot to draw from, so why not? I’ll report back when these are done to brag about how great they taste. I’ll report back when they’re ready. Maybe with a recipe for tapenade.

Olives in water
Brine Curing Olives
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Olives in water
Brine Curing Olives
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Ingredients
Water soak
Brine
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
Water soak
  1. Wash the olives to remove any road dirt.
  2. Fill your soaking vessel half way with plain cool water.
  3. Inspect each olive and slice the perfect ones with a sharp paring knife, and pop them immediately into water.
  4. Trim the imperfect ones and pop them into a separate jar for processing.
  5. Make sure when you are done that the olives are fully covered in water.change the water daily for 7 days.
  6. Change the water daily for 7 days.
Prepare brine
  1. Put the salt into a stainless steel or ceramic pot large enough to hold all of the water.
  2. Pour two litres of the water at boiling temperature.
  3. Put on the stove and heat while stirring until the salt is fully dissolved.
  4. Add the remaining 6 litres of brine water at a cold temperature to cool the brine.
  5. Either store the brine until needed, or wait until it has cooled to room temperature before pouring over the olives.
Brining the olives
  1. After 7 days, drain the plain water from the olives.
  2. Pour the brine over the olives. Use a plate to ensure that they are fully covered.
  3. Cover with a crock lid or plastic wrap, and let sit for at least a month before eating.
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