Olive Preservation Guide: How Do You Brine Olives
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Cured olives are a delicious snack or addition to recipes. If you are lucky enough to have an olive tree, you can make your own brined fruits. Preserving olives is an essential process due to the fruit’s bitterness. There are many methods for curing olives, it just depends what you prefer. You can learn how to preserve olives and eat your fruit year-round here.
Notes on Preserving Olives
Olive preservation is a centuries old tradition and the key to getting palatable fruit. The oleuropein makes them astringent and needs to be soaked out of the olives prior to eating them. This process can take days and requires a little patience.
The most common way to preserve this fruit is to brine olives, but it is not the only way. Brined olives are saltier than those cured with lye. You can also use a water or dry-salt method of curing olives.
If you want to brine olives, you add seasonings to the final brine before storage. Water cured olive preservation leaves a slightly bitter olive, but some people like them that way and the fruit is ready in a few weeks as opposed to other methods that take two to three months. Dry-salted olives are ready in five to six weeks but don’t store as long as brined.
How to Preserve Olives
The most common method, brining, is time consuming but worth the effort. In order to brine olives, select good fruit and wash it. Mix a 1:10 solution of salt to water. Cut a slit in each olive. This will allow the oleuropein to leach out. Place olives in a bucket and layer with brine.
Cover the bucket with a lid and place it in a cool, low lit location. Stir the olives regularly and taste one after a couple of months. If still bitter, continue to store them.
When they are to your taste, drain them and lay them out on a towel to dry. Then soak them in vinegar for half a day to stop the fermentation. The olives are now ready to pickle.
Other Methods of Olive Preservation
You can make specialty olives, like cracked olives, which you smash with a flat knife prior to soaking in water. The water is changed frequently until the fruit reaches the desired flavor. Then cover them in brine with whatever seasonings are preferred.
Water soaked olives can take as little as 7 days but up to 20 before they are ready to be brined.
Dry cured olives are best made with oil rich, large fruit. This is an easy process, requiring only pickling salt and a large slatted container. The salt will leach out the bitterness. It is a 1:2 ratio of salt to olives. Keep the container where the fluids can drain and temperatures are warm. These olives should be refrigerated for up to six months or frozen.
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How to Preserve Vegetables
If you love fresh fruits and vegetables, summer is probably your favorite time of year. The problem is that summer always ends, as does the abundance of fresh produce. Learning how to preserve vegetables gives you the ability to enjoy the flavor of your favorite vegetables year-round.
The excellent news is preserving vegetables isn’t hard some methods are easier than others, but all provide amazing results. Discovering the various ways to preserve vegetables from summer harvests is essential as they don’t keep as long as other vegetables.
For example, winter squash, when stored in a root cellar, keeps for months at a time. Zucchini, on the other hand, is a summer squash and only keeps well for a few days inside the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
Even though some vegetables store well in the root cellar, learning how to preserve vegetables ensures your food storage features all the vegetables you enjoy, not just the hardier ones.
Preserving Olives the Green Prophet Way
Call me Olivias de Maurico: This Syrian olive tree is loaded with fruit, most of which will fall to the ground, unpicked.
The autumn olive harvest is still in full swing, and those of you who are now enjoying picking and preserving this ancient Middle Eastern fruit are surely aware that this year’s crop is much better than the poorer crop years of the past years when olive crops in both Israel and the Palestinian areas were much less. I have been engaged for several years now in an “urban harvest” where people grow and harvest their own fruit and veggies in the middle of populated urban areas. Here’s how I do it.
Syrian olives “on the tree”
Many people living in Israel and Palestine are lucky enough to have olive trees growing in their own neighborhoods or even their own backyards.
My apartment project has a number of olive trees planted in our building garden, as well as in nearby parks. Most of the fruit from these trees are either the narrow and pointed Syrian olives or the round Mission and Manzanillo olives which are both good for either pickling or oil.
I pick them both and afterwards pickle them, using a recipe that I fondly refer to as ” Olivias de Mauricio”.
Picking one’s own fruit is a very important part of this endeavor, and I recommend doing this as otherwise, most of the fruit on these “park trees” wind up falling to the ground or sidewalk as the case may be.
My pickling method for green olives is very simple. After picking, sorting, and washing the fruit (try not to mix varieties, if possible) soak the olives in clean water for 10 – 12 days, changing the water daily. I recommend using either water from an under the sink filtration unit or a Brita water filter, to rid the water of chlorine and minerals which can affect the taste of the olives. These nasty chemicals can also affect our health.
The fruit is ready to be put in jars for picking when it changes color and begins to have an “olive” color and odor to them. The water soaking process takes a lot of the bitterness out of the fruit.
Soaking olives: change water daily
For the pickling process use clean jars in good condition and with lids that are not rusty. Cleaning the jars with hot soapy water and then rinsing in hot water is recommended as well.
When pickling, I make a brine consisting of water, rock salt, vinegar, and taste conducive ingredients like lemon slices, clean olive leaves, and pieces of fresh garlic.
There’s no set formula for the “spices” as it depends on whether one wants “garlicky” olives or those with more of a lemon taste. You can also add some cut chili peppers for a bit of a “kick”, if desired.
The brine has to contain at least 10 percent salt and an equivalent amount of 5% acidic vinegar (the citrus type is best) for the pickling to be successful.
Processed olives: jar on left has been curing almost a year.
The actual pickling process simply involves putting layers of fruit, lemon slices, olive leaves and garlic chunks or slices until they fill the jar almost to the top.
Then pour in the brine mixture until it reaches just under the top of the jar (about 1/4 inch or 5 cm). Before closing the jar lid, pour enough good quality olive oil in to cover the entire top of the brine mixture.
This keeps mold from forming during the pickling process. After tightly closing the jar and checking for leakage (turn jar upside down to do this) wipe the outside of jar to clean off any picking residue and then label the jar with the date that the picking process was done – this makes it easier to know how long the ingredients have been “working”.
Store the jars in a place away from sunlight (like in a kitchen cupboard) for a minimum of 2-3 months before using.
Ripe olives will cure faster, so bear this in mind if picking ripe or nearly ripe olives.
After opening a cured fruit jar, store it in your refrigerator. Remember that the longer the curing or picking process is allowed to work, the better the olives will taste. And best of all, you have the enjoyment eating olives you picked and pickled yourself.
Sort olives, discarding stems, leaves, and bruised or moldy fruit rinse olives and drain. With a knife, cut down 1 long side of each olive through to pit.
Place olives in 1-gallon or 2-quart jars (glass or plastic 2 gal. total volume) with noncorrodible lids, filling to within 1 inch of top. Fill jars to brim with water. Partially fill pint-size heavy plastic food bags (1 for each container) with water and seal set a bag on top of olives in each jar to keep fruit submerged (water will overflow a little). Set jars away from sunlight.
Once a day, drain water from the jars, holding olives back with your fingers. Rinse any foam or scum from jars and bags refill the jars with cool water. (You may see a small amount of harmless bubbling in water olives will also lose their brightness and leak color into the water.) Repeat daily (it's fine if you miss a day now and then) until olives have a mild, pleasantly bitter taste, about 5 weeks total.
Drain olives and pour salt equally over olives in jars.
Pour vinegar and 7 cups water into a 5- to 6-quart pan. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Pour hot liquid over olives to within 1/2 inch of jar rims. Let cool. Pour olive oil on top of liquid in each jar to completely cover surface, then secure lids.
S$? S(?rate olives until vinegar flavor permeates them, 2 to 3 weeks. Taste if desired, add 1/2 cup more salt equally to jars and chill for 2 more days or up to 6 months. With time, olives become increasingly mellow. Once a month, check oil surface for scum or mold skim off any. If olives smell fine and are firm, continue to store. If olives smell bad or become soft, discard.
To serve, remove desired quantity of olives with a slotted spoon. To season, coat lightly with olive oil and add garlic or herbs to taste (see notes).
Marinated Olives Recipe
Now let’s make those scrumptious marinated olives!
Drain the olives. You’ll want to give the black olives a rinse so their juices don’t discolor the other olives.
Look at that beautiful collection of plump, multi-colored olives! Oh, the possibilities…
You can really use any herbs and seasonings of your choice. This time we’re going to use fresh thyme, rosemary, coriander and fennel seeds, bay leaves, garlic, a little dried red chili for some spiciness, extra virgin olive oil and those wonderful preserved lemons.
Be sure to use good quality extra virgin olive oil as the flavor will greatly impact the outcome of the marinated olives.
To bring out the flavor of the coriander and fennel we’re going to toast them.
First give them a quick smash in a ziplock bag just to crack them open. Heat a small, dry pan over medium-high heat and, once hot, add the coriander and fennel seeds. Roast until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes, shaking pan frequently towards the end. Be careful not to scorch them.
Pour in the olive oil and let it heat up for just a minute then remove from the heat.
Add all the remaining ingredients and let the mixture sit for a few minutes until cooled down.
NOTE: Unless you like super spicy food, be very careful how much dried red chili you add. A little goes a very long way and the spiciness only increases over time. Omit entirely if you don’t like heat.
Pour the marinade over the olives and stir to combine. Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least a week before eating them. The longer they sit, the better they’ll taste. You can also go ahead and divide the olives into gift jars first and then store them in the fridge until ready to give away.
The olives will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month. Give them a little shake every now and then. Bring to room temperature before serving.
And don’t forget to share the love and give some olives away!
Bad, bad olives
The good news: My first try at curing olives is finished. The bad news: I think I made botulism. I let the olives soak in the brine liqu.
The good news: My first try at curing olives is finished.The bad news: I think I made botulism.
I let the olives soak in the brine liquid (1 gallon water to 1 cup salt) for 10 days. Then I rinsed.Then I decreased the salt by half and waited another 10 days. Then I rinsed.
I waited for months and all the clues that I was watching for occurred: The olives turned an ugly brown color. They developed a black, thick, rubber-like skin on the surface (something that’s supposed to add flavor, I was told). But they still tasted too harsh to be ready. So I let them sit a little more. After waiting patiently for months, I did what any busy person with a short attention span would do. I forgot about them completely.
Now those olives that I put so much energy into are so ugly, I highly doubt their mother would love them. Puffed, mushy fruit, with skin that resembles a painful blister from a pair of new shoes.
I did take a bite of one of them. Okay, not a bite, but I cut one open and touched my tongue to it. It tasted like an olive, but the idea of having to get my stomach pumped if I ate more was reason enough to toss the lot.
If anyone is looking for me, I’ll be at the farmer’s market trying to score more fresh olives for round two.