curing olives part two

jarcoloursloveAs of today, it’s been one month and two days since my virgin (or perhaps, extra virgin?) attempt at curing homegrown olives began. Four long, arduous weeks filled with impatience, saltwater, daily inspections and regrettably bitter taste tests.

For those of you who missed my original ‘olive harvest’ post, you can catch up on the details here. Roughly thirty days and four batches of brine later, I can gladly report that my little bullet-hard beauties are slowly progressing.

This morning, I sampled my second half-cured black olive. After four weeks, the shiny black fruit has progressed to a diluted shade of purple; the flesh has softened and the skin has taken on a smooth, almost-translucent appearance. In terms of flavour, the second taste test was drastically different to the first. The flesh has transitioned from hard and bitter to soft and sweet, with a whack of salt and fruity undertones.

olivebiteAfter some consideration, I do feel that there’s too much salt in the overall flavour profile. After the brining process concludes, I may soak the fruit in clean, fresh water prior to dressing the batch in olive oil and herbs. However, for a first attempt, I’m quite happy.

When it comes to the green olives, well… they’re taking much longer to cure than the blackened fruit. I didn’t attempt a taste test today (due to experiencing a bitter assault to the palate last time around) but the fruit itself is still resistant to a gentle squeeze. Interestingly, the bright green fruit has lost much of its attractive vibrancy. The predominantly green olives are now tinged with dirty yellow. Their variegated friends are now a pallid shade of dappled purple. A bit sad, really.

oliveswk4My favourite part of the curing process has been the brine itself. It’s therapeutic to watch the hard salt crystals bubbling in water, dissolving into a steaming pool of clarity. When poured into the jars, the density of the brine causes the olives to float like little ovular life buoys, and after a few days, the brine starts to acquire the pigment from the soaking olive skins.

Soft yellow turns to dark, bleeding khaki. A pale blush of rose seeps further into bright crimson. Each day has been different, like an evolving art piece that’s enlivened by the sun. Beautiful. It’s been almost sad to wash the brine down the drain.

jarcolours2So, that’s my week four report. As a naive estimation, I feel that I’ve probably got another two weeks to wait for the black olives, and… perhaps four for the resistant green fruit? In the meantime, feel free to send me your favourite recipes for dressing olives (so far I’m thinking herbs, lemon rind, perhaps some crushed garlic… all topped up with some fruity olive oil).

throughtheglass*As an offside, I just stumbled across a recipe for Martini Soaked Olives at the Kitchn. Gorgeously boozy, simple and delicious. Bookmarked for when the green olives are ready. I’m excited.

Update: my finished, dressed olive post is available here. I now have five large jars of soft, juicy olives marinating in extra virgin oil, herbs, citrus rind and cracked spices. Definitely worth every minute.

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68 responses

    • Aw, you’re missing out Whit! But hey, that’s ok… all the more olives for me :) Re the Ninja, I LOVE it!!! Such a good investment, makes the previously arduous task of blending easy (my husband doesn’t need to put industrial ear muffs on me anymore, haha). Amazon ended up sending me a refund as they decided that the product couldn’t be shipped to Australia (so annoying) but my local Target got a new shipment in and I snapped one up! Thank you so much for the recommendation! xx

      • I just have never liked olives. I don’t even like them touching my foods. I shared a Greek salad the other day with some friends and before I would touch it I had my friend remove all the olives. Haha. It stems from childhood olive problems. =) I am glad you like your ninja!! I loooove it. Boo for it not shipping to Australia!

      • Haha! Aw, it’s not as bad as a couple of other food phobias I’ve heard of. One of my high school teachers had a phobia of baked beans. He wouldn’t go anywhere near them. When we went on a school camping trip one of the boys put a can of baked beans outside his tent and… well, he couldn’t exit his tent. Poor man (children are cruel!). Yep, crap that Amazon doesn’t ship certain things to Australia. I paid twice the cost to get it at Target but it was still worth it! xx

    • Aw, I love Bivouac’s olives! Gorgeously warm and citrusy, bathed in fruity olive oil. I haven’t been able to find raw Sicilian green olives over here, but they’re actually my favourites. I need to do a bit more hunting and see if I can replicate Biv’s recipe at home. Miss your beautiful face Elissa!! xx

  1. I so agree with you that the crimson stained brine looks like it should be purposed for something other than tipping down the drain. But then really what could you do with extra extra crimson salty water – lol! I’m always partial to chilli olives. My favourite ones that my husbands family make (as do most of the locals) are the green olives dressed with some preserved lemon and red chillies. They tend to discard the lemon and chillies when they are serving, but for me they make a wonderful pasta sauce – the olives, chillies and preserved lemon with a some cream (or in my case I can’t get cream so I use the thick yoghurt) stirred through with some freshly cooked pasta and I’m in heaven! xx

    • Yeah, such a good point. I did briefly consider cooking pasta in it but then I came to my senses… it would’ve been like eating a bowl of pink-tinged salt! :) I adore chilli olives. I might try a batch of the green ones with preserved lemon and chilli, sounds so delicious (I never thought of using preserved lemon! Do you cut the rind very fine?). Your description of the pasta sounds absolutely amazing! I just ate a bowl of Sultana Bran and my stomach is telling me that it was seriously insufficient!! xx

      • They put chunks of the preserved lemon (a small lemon quartered and then quartered again) into the jar when dressing the olives along with the whole chillies. Then when I’m cooking up the pasta sauce I just thinly slice up the preserved lemon and the chillies to my taste. . You’ve got me all inspired to try my hand at making up a batch of preserved lemons now. I’ll have to wait until November for the olives to be ripe for picking to try to do my own batch of olives. I must admit I’m a bit lazy as we just get them from my husbands family along with a drum of freshly pressed olive oil. It’s seriously good olive oil! xx

      • Oh, I am so envious of the cured olives and the olive oil! All I get from my mother in law is craft equipment (she’s a bit of a craft fanatic. It’s taking over their house. Unfortunately I don’t share the passion!). I buy some delicious local extra virgin olive oil here in WA but I doubt that it’s anywhere near as good as your in-law’s. I’ve made my own preserved lemons! They’re delicious and much cheaper than buying jarred ones over here. I used a really simple recipe: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/12750/preserved+lemons. No idea if there’s a better way to do it but it worked for me! Now, you’ve got me craving that preserved lemon, olive and chilli pasta. Sounds so darn good. I’ll definitely try the recipe. Thanks Andrea! xx

    • It’s definitely been taking a while! I’m not the most patient person either. My technique for ‘patience development’ has been to just try and forget that they’re there during the week, so I won’t keep checking on them (eating a half-cured olive works too, they’re truly horrible!). Will let you know how the finished olives go. Can’t wait! xx

      • I am probably the least patient person when it comes to waiting for food to be ready to eat, I have to put it somewhere where I won’t see it otherwise I am opening it, and defeating the purpose of letting things cure. I imagine the less than pleasant taste of the uncured olive was enough to keep you away for a while. I can’t wait to hear how they turn out.

      • Thanks so much. I will definitely let you know (well, if I don’t eat all of them in their half-brined state! Ick, they’re horrible but my impatience can be unrestrained!) x

    • I’ve given the jar a bit of a gentle shake at times (the olives tend to compress themselves near the top of the jar due to the buoyancy of the saltwater) but otherwise, they’ve just taken care of themselves. So far I’ve changed the brine once per week. During the ‘changeover’ process I’ve washed the olives well and rearranged them prior to adding the fresh brine. No idea whether my technique could be improved. All seems to be working well so far!

    • Thanks so much for the sweet comment Kiran! It’s been a fun process so far. If your husband loves them, it’s definitely cheaper to cure them at home than to buy them from the store! Good luck if you do try the technique! xx

    • Thanks so much Ruby! Yeah, the process definitely requires some patience. Lucky for me, I did quite a bit of preliminary reading so I was aware of how long I’d have to wait! I do hope that the finished olives will be worth it. We’ll see! xx

  2. Hey Laura. I love this post. So full of passion and info. I’m sure all of your hard work will be worth it, when your tucking into your own brined and seasoned olives (plus a martiini – shaken or stirred?). I had some fabulous olives when I was in the West recently, I detected a little crunch of coriander seeds under my teeth when I ate them – delicious. I’ll be adding some crushed coriander seeds to my next batch.

      • Haha, it’s early here too! I’m only half awake and I’m craving a good, strong coffee (I might have to stop off on my way to work!). Adding coriander seeds sounds delicious! I might try toasting the crushed seeds and then steeping them in the oil. Mmm, genius! Thanks so much for the gorgeous idea. Oh… and the martini? Definitely shaken, baby! The true Bond way! xx

  3. If you haven’t tried roast olives, that’s worth experimenting with (I love the flavor of almost anything roasted). Really fun experiment you’re doing – I doubt if I’ll ever brine my own olives, but it’s fun reading about your experience. Looking forward to the next installment. ;-)

    • Oh, that sounds fantastic John! I’ve pan-fried them in good olive oil with orange rind and coriander seeds but I’ve never tried roasting them. Do you just add oil? And yep, it’s been heaps of fun brining the olives. It’s taking ages but I do feel that it’ll be worth it! Thanks for taking the time out to comment! :)

    • Thanks Johnny! Yep, it was me being a little bit artistic ;) Re the martini, yes it’s been years for me also! I’m a habitual Hendrick’s G&T drinker (though I do love a good whisky on the rocks). The idea of macerating the olives in a ‘martini’ sounded awesome though. Boozy olive goodness!

  4. We’ve taken different paths to the same goal. Last Fall, I started curing green olives; blacks weren’t available. After one horrible tasting, I let those babies sit in the brine for a couple months before I tried again. Now I’ll eat them. They’re OK but nothing extraordinary. I hope to find black olives in a few weeks and try to brine them. Chicago’s climate isn’t one to produce olives so they’re all shipped in. I learned last year that olives go fast and I just wasn’t lucky enough to be in the store when the delivery came in. Hope springs eternal for this year! :)

    • Ah, good luck with the black olive hunt John! Despite my hope for the green olives, I do feel that the black ones will end up being much more successful. I did the same horrible taste test with the green… I’ve never eaten anything so bitter and astringent in my life! I’m a bit scared to try them again, so I might leave them for another month or two and see how it goes. Lucky for us in Western Australia, we have heaps of olives everywhere. I’m determined to try curing olives every year from now on. Maybe in a decade I will have perfected it! :)

    • Haha, I didn’t either until a couple of months ago! It’s been heaps of fun :) My patience has been tested though. I can’t wait to try the finished product! xx

  5. I enjoyed reading your narration about curing olives. I never imagined this could be done at home. I must say you’re so patient, I wonder weather I could go through this? “Four long, arduous weeks filled with impatience, saltwater, daily inspections and regrettably bitter taste tests.” I think you could make a very good scientist in a laboratory somewhere…I’m however interested in the end results and will be checking to see what transpired. Thanks for sharing. I must admit your blog has lots of interesting recipes and stints and I shall be browsing here for my weekly cook-outs. Thanks for sharing and have a lovely week!!!

    • Haha, thanks Liz! I never thought of a career in science but maybe I’ve got a hidden calling! Yep, I’m still inspecting the olives daily. Their new brine is slowly colouring up and I am hoping that the black variety will be ready soon! Unfortunately it’s very wintry here. It’s been dark when I go to work and dark when I get home, so it’s been terrible for food photography. Hoping to get another post completed this weekend! xx

  6. I never saw anyone curing their own olives! That is so cool. I could sit here and read your descriptions all night long. Even though it’s taking a long time it’s kind of neat to see the changes.

    • Hi Reeni! So nice to hear from you! You’re right, patience can be rewarding sometimes. I am quite an impatient cook though so it’s been a growth experience for me! Can’t wait to show you guys the finished product. Fingers crossed the black variety will be ready in a week or so! Thanks for taking the time to comment xx

  7. Okay, I’m headed back to part 1 now! I always think that I should give it a go but haven’t been able to find a good enough guide/recipe. And it’s the whole storing them that wigs me out a bit – paranoid about food poisoning. Not a good quality for a cook!

    • Hey lovely! Thanks for taking the time to read through some of my posts (so so lovely to have made another blogging friend!). I definitely understand your hesitation about the ‘storing’ element. In this case, you can feel pretty safe… the ratio of salt to water creates a brine that prohibits any decay or mold from happening! If you’re worried you could probably try and store the brined olive fruit in the fridge during the curing process. Not sure if that would slow the preservation though? And you can never be too careful when it comes to food poisoning. I feel the same about food hygiene practices – I think it’s a good quality to have! xx

  8. I saw your early post and I can’t believe how much they changed. My grandparents use to do this, but they have gotten too old now. Wish I learned from them. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Hello beautiful! Aw, so lovely to see your face (or, uh… gravatar!). How are things going for you and Marco? Is the work/life balance evening out yet? It’s been fun curing the olives. It’s taken much longer than I initially anticipated but I’m hoping that it’ll be worth it! xx

    • Hahaaa… aw, I’m not that scary Azita! :) I can understand the dislike of olives. They have a pretty strong flavour that doesn’t please everyone! Thanks so much for the lovely comment anyway. I DO like you!!! xx

  9. I so admire your efforts in curing olives at home. And look how fancy they look…loving the purplish hue! Every bit worth the effort. Though, I could never have imagined doing it myself at home. Brilliant work, my friend!

    • Hi Sonali! Thanks so much for the kind words. It’s actually not that difficult, it just takes time (and patience, which I am not that great with!). I can’t wait to taste them though. I do hope it’ll be worth it (fingers crossed!). Just took a look at your gorgeous pistachio and dark chocolate post. Drooling right now! xx

  10. That is the kind of patience, passion, care and love we need to put in to make every creation works. I always get upset when people who don’t care to cook takes food for granted. If I can get to taste your olives, you can rest assure that I will treasure every bite. Well done Laura :)

    • Thanks so much Danny. Wish you could taste some (hm, I can send you a jar to Singapore!). I always appreciate your encouragement and friendship in the blogosphere. Thanks for taking the time out to visit so often :)

  11. Laura, these seriously sound so delicious! Homemade brined olives–I want! Go you and your patience for waiting these out until the (delicious) end. I’m sure they will be totally worth it!

    • Thanks lovely. Ah, yeah I hope they’ll be worth it!!! I should be able to post some of the finished dressed olive recipes in a week or so, if all goes to plan. Fingers crossed! xx

  12. Despite being in different countries and an age difference of 15 years- I think we have a lot in common. I’d love to try brining my own olives. I’ve got to take some time for the backstory of Vic and the garden with an olive tree. Look forward to reading more of your blog. cheers … wendy

    • Hi Wendy! Thanks so much for taking the time out to read a few of my posts. Yes, I felt exactly the same when I read your blog… I do think that we share a lot of the same values and beliefs. We’d probably get on wonderfully if we didn’t live so far from each other (darn it! I’d invite you to dinner!). I’m looking forward to sharing more recipes and stories together too. Thanks again lovely x

    • Aw, thank you Laura. Yes, torture is quite an appropriate term! I’m going to rinse and check the black olives again tomorrow and hopefully they’ll be ready – fingers crossed! I’m praying that the finished product will be worth it! :)

    • Thanks so much Sofia. I appreciate the kind words! It’s pretty easy actually, but you’re right about the patience factor. I think it’s been good for me, as I’m normally a very efficient (aka impatient!) cook! xx

  13. Laura – I am so impressed by your foray into olive brining! And I love, love your description of the color change as the brine progresses. I hope someday they I will be brave enough to try this!

    • Thanks David. You are way too kind! It’s not exactly a difficult process, but I have struggled with the time aspect of it. Curing olives is so slow. I am quite excited at the prospect of eating them though. I’ll keep you posted!

    • Definitely give it a go! It’s easy… the most difficult thing is the waiting period. I’m draining and dressing my black olives in a day or two, so I look forward to posting the finished result! Fingers crossed it’ll all be worth it! xx

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

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