How to Cure Olives

This book has complete details on how to cure olives:

Lost Arts : A Cook's Guide to Making Vinegar, Curing Olives, Crafting Fresh Goat Cheese and Simple Mustards, Baking Bread and Growing Herbs ; by Lynn Alley

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Curing Olives with Brine, Water, and Lye
Courtesy of the Rec.Food.Preserving FAQ

You can cure olives at nearly any stage, but the really tiny green ones aren't worth it. Green olives are green colored; red ripe olives have a reddish 'blush' to them (if you have olives, you know what I mean); black (or dead) ripe olives are deep black throughout. Just make sure that the black ripe olives are still firm, and don't cure 'drops,' olives that have fallen to the ground. You've got several choices, depending on your curiousity and your fanaticism.

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Water curing. (For the most fanatic)
Generally you water cure the big green ones, right before they turn red. You pick the olives, crack each of them with a rolling pin, then immerse them completely in cold water, changing the water *each* day for at least 25 days. Stir them up when you think about it. Immerse and change the water, etc, taste one after 25 days. If they are too bitter, keep up this regime until they are edible.

Brine curing. (A little less fanatic)
Brine cured red-ripe or black-ripe olives are Greek-style; brine cured green olives are Sicilian style. The red-ripe olives generally turn a grey green to pink, while the black-ripe ones keep their color, becoming a Kalamata-deep purple. Again, you pick the olives, or you shake the tree over a tarp, and collect the olives. Deeply slit each one using a sharp paring knife, then plunk them into a brine (brine is 1/4 cup canning salt in 1 qt water). Weight down the olives, make sure they are fully immersed. Cover your vat of olives, stir once in awhile, wait one week. Rinse, and change the olive brine once/week for at least 3 weeks. Taste, if still too bitter, keep changing brine 1/week. Mine usually take about 6 weeks. Scum will form on the top of the vat; its harmless *if* olives are immersed, but get rid of it when you see it.

Lye curing. (No fanaticism necessary)
You always lye cure green olives. If you bubble air through the lye solution, those green olives turn black; the California black olive is born. You pick the olives, clean them. Save a few of your biggest olives for the top of your vat. Immerse all those olives in a lye solution (2 tablespoons flake lye in 1 qt water) for 12 hours. Dispose of lye solution, reimmerse olives again in new lye solution for 12 more hours. Take and cut into some of your largest olives to see if the lye penetrated the olive (olive will be soft to the pit, easy to cut to the pit, and the flesh will be yellowish green when ready). Soak olives in water for 3 days, changing the water at least 3-4 times/day. Taste an olive on the fourth day. Should taste sweet and fatty, with no bitterness, a little like a tiny avocado. Immerse for 1 week in a light brine, about 6 Tbs salt in gallon of water.

***Lye is nasty, remember to wear rubber gloves, use lemon juice or vinegar to neutralize lye burns, and your olive vat shouldn't be plastic.***

You can also make marinades for your cured olives, good flavors/herbs to use in various combinations are: garlic, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, dried chiles, fennel seed, peppercorns, coriander seed, orange peel, lemon peel, lemon slices, cumin seed.

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