curing olives. and an intro to hippy vic

olivebowlLast Sunday, I spent approximately five hours with one of the most beautiful, warm, strong and wise women I know.  She greeted me with a hug, dark eyes sparkling. We drank coffee from cornflower-blue mugs before fastening our jackets and heading to the local farmer’s market. The air was cold but dry. We bought field mushrooms in brown paper and long-stemmed roses with the thorns still attached. She selected a cauliflower, white and tight-packed, whilst her two under six splashed in puddles. Patterned wellingtons and wide smiles gleamed against the greyish sky.

pomestallsHer name is Victoria. Vic for short, or Vicky if you’re feeling in-between. You might recognise her from here, here and here; she’s relatively famous around these parts as my eternal best friend, frequent clean-living inspiration and occasional cooking buddy. Over the last twelve months, she’s also answered to the pseudonym of Hippy Vic, the lifestyle blog she created as a means to share her organic gardening ideas, recipes and nutritional tips with the general public.

Since its establishment in October 2012, ‘Hippy Vic’ has gone from strength to… uh, dormancy. Vicky’s life has rolled forward with home renovations, part-time study and parenting responsibilities and a thick layer of metaphorical dust has settled on ‘Hippy Vic’. Vicky has now forgotten her WordPress password altogether. Sad but true.

bubblesnlegsSo, what to do? Last weekend over a bottle of vino, Vicky and I decided to re-establish part of ‘Hippy Vic’ right here on Laura’s Mess. Rather than an official ‘guest post’ series, Vic’s going to send me bits and pieces ranging from recipes to photographs, gardening tips to interior decorating. I’m going to post these fresh ideas for her, formatted and edited, for your reading pleasure (posts will be tagged under ‘guest posts’ and ‘hippyvic’ for easy reference).

If you’re unfamiliar with ‘Hippy Vic’, give Vic’s original ‘hello’ post a read before embarking on this series with us. Today’s post has been primarily written by me, however there will be many pure, honest-to-goodness, 100% ‘Hippy Vic’ posts to enjoy as time passes… I can’t wait for you to ‘meet’ her!

IMG_9309Curing Olives: A Crash Course in Brine

I love olives. I can’t say that I always have (as a child I would have rather eaten a chunk of liver) but in recent years, I’ve come to appreciate their salty, succulent flesh in everything from pasta to sushi (yes, our local Japanese does this!) or a salad roll.

Olives are like natural little flavour boosters. Their concentrated salty richness adds a rounded savoury flavour to braised or baked dishes; a bit like anchovies, but minus the fishy aftertaste. In recent years, I’ve also started making thick, rich tapenade to spread on sandwiches and foccacia. However, despite our regular household olive consumption, I’ve actually never made my own cured or brined olives. Mostly because I’ve never had access to a mature olive tree (correction: I’ve never had access to a mature olive tree that I could raid without getting into trouble). Visiting Vicky’s organic garden changed that.

olivemontVicky’s tree was positively heaving with ripe, blackened fruit last weekend. A light carpet of fallen fruit lay on the moistened grass, gleaming in the afternoon sun. Most were blemished but nevertheless collected with small, eager hands and smiling faces before being squirreled away into plastic bags (these were later discarded: do not use blemished or fallen olives for curing as a soft, blemished olive is a spoiled olive that is not fit for consumption). Vicky and I scaled the lower rungs of the tree and pulled off the firm, glossy fruits. Both green and black were collected for me to take home, alongside some rosemary, sage, old fashioned mint and raspberries.

plotmontUpon taking the fruit home, I washed it carefully and separated the unripe green from the softer black fruit (their different densities result in different cooking times). I then followed the method below, which I developed from a variety of different sources including this article by Kimi Harris and this reference guide from the now-defunct ‘Burke’s Backyard’ (ah, I used to love that show as a child).

salt montTo cure your olives (of all their ailments) you will need:

  • fresh, unsprayed black and/or green olives
  • non-iodised salt (I used non-iodised Australian rock salt)
  • water
  • sterilised glass jars with lids

Wash your olives well. Discard any blemished or soft fruit, then soak overnight in cold, clean water. Make sure that the fruit is fully submerged, as this soaking process helps to eliminate some of the bitterness from the skin. Weigh the fruit down with a plate if necessary.

The next morning, rinse your fruit. Separate the green and black into different piles, then use a sharp paring knife to cut a deep slit in each olive, down to the stone (I cut one side of the olive only, but some sources suggest cutting both sides).

prepmontPour your olives into your sterilised jars (make sure you keep the green and black separate) until the jars are two-thirds full.

Make your brine solution: use 1/4 cup non-iodised salt for each litre of water. To make the brine, mix your salt and water together in a medium saucepan. Heat the water until the salt dissolves (don’t let the mixture boil, or you will end up with a salt crust all over your cooktop!).

brineLet the water cool, then pour it over the olives in each jar until the fruit is fully submerged. Weigh the fruit down with a plate if necessary.

Leave the olives to cure for one week, then change the brine solution. Continue to do this once per week (you may notice some ‘scum’ that rises to the surface; just skim it off and replace your brine solution) until the fruit are ready.

blackjarredBlack olives should be ready after 2-3 weeks, whereas green olives may take 4-8 weeks (due to their high level of bitterness and added density). Taste your olives to ensure they’re soft, a little bit salty but deliciously edible. If they are still bitter and hard, leave them to cure for another week or so (update: I’ve revised my estimated curing times here).

As my olives are still curing, there will need to be a part 2 to this post: dressing the olives. I’m thinking of using olive oil, chilli, garlic and rosemary and will post some finished recipes and photos in the next two months (or whenever my olives are ready, *sob*!). I’ve also made something similar to this marinade from Jamie Oliver for store-bought, non-marinated olives. I’ll definitely be using a batch for the home-cured fruit.

roselaceTo store: the olives can either be stored in the brine solution (with a thin layer of olive oil over the top) or in an olive oil marinade in sealed, sterilised jars for up to 6 months (preferably in a cool, dark place like a pantry or cupboard).

leahherbNote: our Sunday market photos were taken at the Midland Farmer’s Market (Old Great Northern Highway in Midland, Western Australia 6056). Whilst our purchases mostly included fruit, vegetables and flowers, they also have stallholders who make artisan bread (including spelt flour loaves), a range of preserves and occasionally, gourmet cheeses. There were also lots of baby chickens, geese and ducks for sale (a favourite for the under-six pair) alongside bric-a-brac, fresh eggs and meats.

One last note: a beautiful friend of mine, Emily, has recently started up her own blog called Bless this Mess (a big cheer for us messy chicks!). It’s full of encouragement, gorgeous nourishing recipes, work-out ideas and applicable wisdom for tired minds and bodies. It’s swiftly becoming a place where I go for a smile at the end of a chaotic day. I’d encourage you to drop by and say hello. I love this girl – I am sure that you will too!

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78 responses

    • Thanks Anna! Ah, I’ve got my fingers crossed that they’ll turn out beautiful… but really I have no idea! It’s been a fun process though. Picking olives, researching techniques for curing… it’s helped me understand the beauty of olives so much more. Will keep you posted on the result! xx

  1. Laura I just love your posts!!! They are food for the heart, soul and tummy. You make the most amazing things and the way in which you write about your foodie adventures can not help but put a smile on my face. I will definitely check out Emily’s blog as I’m sure that I’ll be able to relate! :)

    • Aw thanks so much Andrea!! I love writing, food, photographs… the whole process of blogging is so therapeutic for me. So glad that you enjoy the outcome! :) I feel the same way about your blog too. You’re so real, thoughtful and wise. Sending you a hug, and thanks for visiting Emily. She’s a lovely sweet soul and she has an innate ability to put a smile on anyone’s face! xx

    • Aw, thanks so much lovely. I appreciate your kind words. I’m definitely blessed to know her (funny to think that we used to eat oven chips and pies together in front of the TV as kids, and now we’re all about organic produce and cooking-from-scratch!!). This was such a fun post to write xx

    • Hello lovely! Haha… yeah I think pizza is probably most Western kids’ first introduction to olives! I think I first tasted mine on pizza. I hated them. I picked those salty little rings of blackness straight off the cheesy crust! Funny how our tastebuds change. I miss the olives if they’re omitted from my pizza now! :) x

    • Aw, thanks Nicole! Yep, it’s cost me zero dollars so far (well, maybe $1 for the salt if I push the boat out!). I’ll let you know how the finished product turns out… if they’re wonderful I’m going to cure my own every year from now on! Thanks for the comment xx

  2. I know you can get olives anywhere but isn’t it great brining your own? The anticipation of that first olive… and the disappointment if you taste it too soon. Yuck! I brined green olives for the first time last Fall, Laura. They were good but I’ll do better this year, now that I know what to expect. I hope I can get to the black olives this year while they’re still fresh. I’m pinning this post and I’ll be sure to refer to it when the olives show up in the market. This was a great post. Thanks.

    • I definitely agree John. There’s something lovely about making food ‘from scratch’ and knowing the process behind the finished product. I’ve been inspecting the jars daily so far. Haha… my anticipation is going to be huge by the time they’re ready!!! I actually tried an olive straight from the tree last weekend… out of curiosity. Yuck is right! I then squished it between my fingers and watched the oily liquid pool on my skin. Wish I could make olive oil too. Might take… uh, years (?) in my tiny mortar and pestle though! Hope you get your hands on some black olives this year… apparently they’re a bit easier to brine as they’re considerably softer. Thanks for the pin and the comment John!!

  3. I love olives …. Can’t stop eating them if I get started on them – I just love everything in your post … and the photos, just wonderful – what an enjoyment this is.

    • Thanks so much Viveka. I definitely agree… they’re very moreish, aren’t they? I always put them in the ‘healthy’ category though, as they’re full of good fats (plus, they’re a fruit, right?!). Sending you a hug! x

      • Here in Sweden are they looking at the oil from the olive stone for energy – the have found out that 100 stones can run 2 full bath and 30 smoothies.
        So loads of good comes out of an olive – plus that they taste great. Yes, I would count them as fruit.

      • Wow, that’s amazing! I had no idea that the stone could be used for energy production. But then again, the Swedes are known for innovation so I’m not surprised that tests are going on. Can’t wait to find out what becomes of the research! xx

      • Yes, we Swede’s are quite good on the whole environment thing – and I think it’s great that they are looking for alternative energy where ever they can find it. Amazing the energy there is in olive stones. Also our airport buses in my county goes on rapeseed oil.

    • Haha… make friends with someone who has an organic garden! :) The process has been simple so far. I’m waiting eagerly to try an olive… but I don’t want to be too impatient as I know it’ll taste horrible at this stage! Will keep you posted lovely! xx

  4. There’ s not much I haven’t tried on the kitchen front, curing olives is one of them. Buying beautiful local marinated olives at the Farmers Market is too easy, but after reading your post Laura, things are gonna change!

    • It’s definitely easy to buy pre-marinated olives. I’ve done it for years! So far I’ve enjoyed following the process from scratch though. I do hope that they’ll taste beautiful (fingers crossed!!). I have big plans for the marination stage :) Thanks for the comment, ladyredspecs! x

  5. There’s another Mess? Must go look.
    – Like you I came to love olives quite late. Now I not only love to cook with them, I chuck them into anything resembling a salad. And must do my one and only tapenade again – it’s been years! Now I’m off to the other Mess. Fickle, I know.

    • Ah, you fickle gentleman! Good think I like you ;)
      And yes, tapenade is absolutely delicious! One of my favourite things, in fact (strange, as it also has anchovies in it, which I didn’t appreciate until my late teens). It’s funny how our tastes change and develop over time. Good thing mine did, or I’d still be eating ham and pineapple pizza every night (apparently this was my favourite when I was about six years old. Why? I have no idea)

    • Aw, sorry to hear that your tree hasn’t been producing fruit! I wonder why? Hm. I don’t know much about olive trees, but Vicky’s appears to be flourishing without a lot of work. I’ll have to ask her if she has any secrets. Here’s hoping that your tree will give you a bounty of olives soon! x

  6. Lovely post Laura! And what a wonderful woman you have met. Cant wait to see your guest posts about her stories and creations. I am another who came to love olive only when I started to appreciate Italian food. The dream of my life is to taste one of the best olive oil that can be found. Rich, fresh, green and cloudy. I should be able to finish off a loaf of crusty bread with it. Lol!!!

    • Thanks Danny! That olive oil you’re dreaming about sounds wonderful! I’ve tasted some pretty beautiful extra virgin oils but the first-press from the farm would definitely be something special. I’d fight you for that bread! :)

    • Thank you so much. She’s definitely a dear friend whom I treasure dearly! Hope that you enjoy the series once we get them up-and-rolling properly. I’m quite excited :) Thanks for the comment lovely x

    • Thank you Francesca :) I appreciate it very much… I think you’ll like the Hippy Vic posts, she’s very much a lover of wine, food and family (and she has a wicked sense of humour!) xx

  7. We grow olives and I have been curing them for a few years now. I love the process. Our green olives are ready for harvesting and we will leave about half on the trees to fully-ripen and go black. It is so satisfying to grow, cure and then eat your own olives. Great post.

    • It’s a beautiful process isn’t it? This is my first venture into the world of home-cured olives but I’ve already decided that I want to do it regularly! How do you dress yours for eating? I can’t wait til they’re soft and ready to seal in jars with olive oil and a host of other goodies. Thanks so much for the comment xx

  8. How wonderful that you are going to be featuring Victoria on your blog. Would love to brine my own olives, it sounds very easy to do and I know the results would be wonderful. Look forward to more from “happy vic” and of course from you. Will check out your friend Emily’s blog also.

    • Hi Suzanne! Yes, the brining process has been so easy so far. I do hope they turn out well though – I’ll post an update on here with the finished product (hopefully not a report of failure, waah!) in a few weeks. I’m excited about sharing some posts with Hippy Vic. It’ll be lots of fun, hopefully for both us and for everyone who reads our adventures! xx

    • I think that half the fun of cooking and eating is the company that you’re in :) I love doing a big therapeutic cook-up on my own, but at the end of the day it’s just lovely to be nourished in the presence of close friends and family. Vic and I actually did a ‘Facetime’ cook-up the other day. We were in our own houses but chatting over a glass of wine via the internet! Yay for technology! Thanks for the comment beautiful. Sending you a hug! x

  9. I’m so jealous! We love our olives and would love to try curing our own one day – if we ever find fresh olives to cure! I’m going to share this post on my Two Extra Virgins facebook page, too.

    • Hi Laura! Ah, is it hard to find fresh olives where you are? Wish I could send you some of Vic’s, there’s still 2/3 of the tree covered in fruit! Thanks for sharing the post too. So lovely to be able to share recipes and stories together (I love your recipes. Can’t wait to try some!) xx

  10. What a fantastic idea. I live in olive country here in California, so there must be a way I can get uncured olives and try this too. I love the idea of curing my own olives. I have jars of vodka stuffed with vanilla beans to make my own vanilla extract, so this feels like the natural progression :-)

    • Hi Susan! Thanks so much for the lovely comment and the follow. I love your blog. It’s been so wonderful to discover your recipes so far and I love the fact that we can swap recipes, stories and tips together despite being in different hemispheres! Definitely try curing your own olives, if you can get hold of some. I’ve loved the experience so far and I can’t wait to taste them. I also make homemade vanilla extract and infused olive oils so you’re right – it does seem to be a natural step forward! Thanks again for visiting the Mess lovely! xx

  11. What a lovely, well-written intro to a fascinating (unofficial) guest post! This makes me want to get out and cure some olives right now! With some fresh bread and cheese…mmm. Looking forward to more from hippy vic! :)

    • Aw, thanks Erika! It’s been really fun watching the olives cure so far. I just wish it’d happen faster (ah, patience is something I need to develop more of!). Definitely will be eating some with fresh bread and cheese when they’re ready. Wish I could send you some! xx

  12. Having Vic visit will be great fun… I have to wonder if this might become a blogging trend? Oh, and the olives? So glad to see a recipe that doesn’t call for lye! When the olives on the trees at work are ripe, you can be sure I will be bringing some for us at home!

    • Hi David :) Thanks so much for the comment! Yes, I’m not a fan of lye. Although it makes the olives less bitter, the corrosive properties are a little undesirable. So far the olives seem to be curing well. I can’t wait to try them, but I’m trying to be patient (to spare myself a horrible bitter taste sensation!). Re blogging trends… it’s possible that ‘guest blogging’ might get more and more popular. We all seem to be so time poor these days; I love maintaining my own blog but Vicky has been finding the time commitment unmanageable over the past few months. This way you’ll get to experience the best of Hippy Vic whilst sparing Vicky the pressure of having to manage her publications alone. We’ll see how it pans out. I do hope you’ll enjoy the hippy inclusion though!

  13. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such a wonderful comment! I am so glad to have found your blog and I love your photography and writing! I love the idea of brining your own olives and you are so lucky to know someone who has a tree. I can’t wait to see your final product.

    Nazneen

    • Hi Nazneen!!! Thank you so much for stopping by the Mess! It means so much, as I’m a big fan of your recipes, writing and photography also :) It’s so nice to think that we can share recipes and stories from now on. I’ll post some photos of the finished product soon. Thanks again for your lovely encouragement :) xx

    • Hi Dana. Thanks so much for the feedback and encouragement – it means a lot. This is my first go at curing olives so I can’t wait to see the finished product! Fingers crossed that they’ll be worth the effort :) x

  14. This would be a lot of fun! I am going to have to try and find some local Olive growers and see if I can get the fruit.
    I make my own home-made pickles in a similar fashion, and just can’t look at the store-versions anymore!

    • Ah, I know what you mean. There’s nothing like home made when it comes to pickles and preserves. Hope that you manage to find some olives. I’m inspecting mine daily at the moment. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  15. I am so glad I found your blog through one of the comments you had posted on mine. I have a weakness for olives but all I have access to is the olive bar at the local grocery store. I am so envious that you have access to fresh olives:)

    • Hello lovely! Aw, thanks so much for visiting my little patch of the internet! I loved visiting your blog – I only had limited time earlier today but I’m looking forward to reading through more of your archived posts (one of the pleasures of discovering a blog a bit late!). Yes, I’m definitely lucky to have access to fresh olives. Quite a few of my friends are keen gardeners so I’m blessed to be the beneficiary of their superfluous produce on a regular basis. I got a bag full of fresh mandarins from a friend yesterday. Now I need to figure out what to make with them :) Thank so much for taking the time to comment! xx

  16. I didn’t like olives when a kid and I still am not that crazy about them but I am crazy about this wonderful instructive post. You and Vicky are lucky to have each other and Vicky is lucky to have a garden (soooo jealous! in a nice non-spiteful way, ha ha) and we are lucky to get this gorgeous post.

    Look forward to your collaborations.

    • Thanks so much Azita. Haha… I’m also jealous of Vicky! But lucky for me, I can raid her veggie patch whenever I want to. I just repay her in food (she’ll be getting a jar of the olives when they’re done. I hope they turn out well!). Olives are a rather acquired taste… particularly if you’re eating a slightly bitter batch. I’ve grown to love them though, which is lucky as I have a few massive jars to get through now! xx

    • Hello Loretta! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. It’s been fun curing my own olives, I’m still hoping that they’ll turn out well (it’s such an unknown when they’re sitting in the jars) but I’ll keep you posted :) Hope that you’re well! xx

  17. Love olives!! We lived in Spain for 12 years and there were olives galore with all kinds of brines. One time a neighbor who worked on an olive farm brought us a vat of uncured olives, but I was a failure at trying to prepare them! I wish I had had your advice… Looking forward to more Vic posts and all you put up!

    • Aw, thanks so much for the kind words Rhonda! It must’ve been so lovely to live in Spain. Whereabouts were you based? I’ve only been to Barcelona so far, but I have dreams of traveling into the countryside :) I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that the olives will be fine! It’s hard to know whilst they’re sitting in their jars of brine, but I’ll keep you posted. Thanks so much for the comment! xx

  18. Oh my gosh… I just learned so much! I have this bookmarked for further reference, too. Thanks for sharing Bless this Mess… It’s great!

    • Hello lovely Kate! So glad that you enjoyed visiting Emily’s blog. She’s such a positive, energetic creature. I feel better every time I read her posts! And re the olives, it’s been so much fun brining them myself. I can’t wait to see how they turn out! xx

    • Thank you so much lovely. Haha… my mother does have a blog! She started it a few months after I started mine, but it’s only very sporadically updated. I have huge admiration for her. She’s pretty fantastic at finding her way around a computer… she has facebook, a blog, Twitter – she’s way cooler than me! Glad that you enjoyed reading the post. I am enjoying the olive curing process so far! Hugs xx

  19. Pingback: Curing Olives, Part Two « Laura's Mess

  20. I’ve got a tiny little olive tree that produced about 3 olives last year. However many I get this year I am definitely going to try this!

    • Naw, three olives! Poor little tree. Hopefully it’ll be a bit more established this year and you’ll get enough to properly cure them. I’m loving the process so far, it’s been really interesting to watch how the olives progress from scratch. It’s quite easy actually, and I do think that the finished product will be even nicer than shop-bought! Thanks for the lovely comment xx

  21. Pingback: Curing Olives, Part Three: Dressings « Laura's Mess

  22. Pingback: The Arbequina Olive Project | Papaya Pieces

  23. I just saw this, thanks to Sofia. Brilliant! I love olives too and always wanted to know how to cure them! I didn’t realize it was as easy as salt water. Now I”m going to check out how you dressed them :)

  24. Pingback: Blackberry and Coconut Muffins + Friendship « Laura's Mess

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