curing olives, part three. dressings

jarbestDespite some personal disbelief, today marks the tenth week since my first batch of olives entered their jars of salty brine. Ten weeks of suspended hope, of weekly brine changes, of fleeting inspections and occasional puckered faces.

I’m glad to announce, whilst inspecting five large jars of marinated olives, that’s it’s all come to an end. A productive, successful and delicious end that’s made the entire process seem worthwhile.

twobowlsliketwobowlsIn hindsight, I’ve largely enjoyed curing my own olives. Everything from boiling (multiple) pots of steaming brine to watching crimson-streaked water swirl down the drain.

Yes, admittedly there have been disappointing moments, frustrating times and slack jaws over the endless mounds of sea salt I’ve used (about two kilos in the past ten weeks). However, whilst eating a soft, sweet olive marinated in fennel, chilli and orange… I’d say that I no longer care.

citrusthymeIn my initial Curing Olives post, I stated that black olives should take around 2-3 weeks to cure, with green olives taking a ‘lengthy’ 4-8 weeks to lose their high level of bitter astringency. Signs of the error in this estimation were obvious by the time of my second olive post, four weeks later.

Let me give a revised estimation: it took around 7-8 weeks for my batch of black olives to reach a level of soft, sweet edibility, whereas the green olives… uh, they took the entire ten weeks to soften and taste edible. Yes, ten weeks. But let me remind you: it’s entirely worth it.

orangefennel2detaillikeI’ve included four variations for dressing olives in the text below (uh, I got a little overexcited). All specify ‘brined then soaked olives‘, which simply means that you’ll need to soak your olives in cool, fresh water for about two hours to release some of the salty brine prior to dressing them. Don’t skip this step. If you do, you’ll end up with beautifully dressed but overpoweringly salty olives.

Taste one during the soaking process: if it’s soft and just slightly salted, you’re ready to dress the batch in whatever flavours you desire. If the ‘salt level’ continues to exceed what’s tolerable, keep soaking the olives as required (if you’ve started the process late at night, place your soaking olives in the refrigerator so that the water doesn’t become tepid overnight).

corseedsmontOne note when it comes to marinating olives: the longer you leave them, the better they’ll taste. In general, I’d recommend storing the well-sealed jars in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks prior to serving the olives… however, if you can’t bear the wait, there’s a simple trick to getting the most out of any of the marinades below.

*For accelerated flavour: in a small pan, lightly warm the olive oil with the aromatics (herbs, spices, garlic) until fragrant. Allow the oil to cool, then pour it over your olives. Leave for at least 2 hours, mixing well, prior to serving.

Once opened, all of these olives will keep for about 2 months in the refrigerator.

Got all of that? Okay, now for the fun (recipe) part:

lemoncorianderRecipe 1: Lemon and coriander olives

  • 1 cup (about 110g) mixed olives, brined then soaked (as above)
  • 1 tsp (about 7g) coriander seeds, toasted
  • 4-5 long strips of lemon rind
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Crush the coriander seeds lightly in a mortar and pestle. Place them into a medium bowl with the olives and lemon rind. Squeeze over the lemon juice, then top up with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle over some salt and pepper, then mix well.

Pour the mixture into a sterilised medium jar, then top up with olive oil so that the mixture is fully submerged. Replace the lid tightly, then invert (turn the jar upside down) to ensure that all of the ingredients are well mixed. Store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks to allow the flavours to develop.

orangedish

orangefennelRecipe 2: Orange and fennel olives

  • 1 cup (about 110g) mixed olives, brined then soaked (as above)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1 bay leaf (dried is fine), torn into two
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 4-5 long strips of orange rind
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Place the olives into a medium bowl with the garlic, dried herbs and orange rind. Pour over some extra virgin olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then mix well.

Pour into a sterilised medium jar, then top up with olive oil so that the mixture is fully submerged. Seal tightly, then invert to ensure that the olive oil is well distributed. Store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks to allow the flavours to develop.

thymepot olivesdoneRecipe 3: Herb and garlic olives

  • 1 cup (about 110g) mixed olives, brined then soaked (as above)
  • 1 small handful mixed fresh herbs, leaves picked (I used rosemary, oregano and thyme)
  • 2-3 long strips of lemon rind
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Place the olives into a medium bowl with the garlic, herbs and lemon rind. Squeeze over the lemon juice, then add some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Pour into a sterilised medium jar, then top up with olive oil so that the mixture is fully submerged. Seal tightly, then invert to ensure that the olive oil is well distributed. Store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks to allow the flavours to develop.

herbgarlictequilaRecipe 4: Tequila and lime olives

  • 1 cup (about 110g) green olives, brined then soaked (as above)
  • 2 fresh Serrano chillies, halved (seeds intact; substitute any other medium heat chilli)
  • a good splash of tequila
  • good splash of Cointreau (substitute another triple sec)
  • 4-5 long strips of orange rind
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • a small handful of coriander (cilantro), leaves picked
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced

Place the olives into a medium bowl with the garlic, orange rind and chillies. Pour over the lime juice, booze and some extra virgin olive oil. Add the fresh coriander and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then mix well.

Pour into a sterilised medium jar, then top up with olive oil so that the mixture is fully submerged. Seal tightly, then invert to ensure that the olive oil is well distributed. Store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks to allow the flavours to develop.

jarsbetterJust a few extra things:

  • For those of you who have been following the journey of my beautiful friend Kendall, her latest blog post can be found here. She and Brett have very much valued your thoughts, prayers and love… despite geographical and physical boundaries, it means a lot. Things aren’t getting any easier for Kendall at present, so please keep it coming (thanks so much, blogging family!).
  • If you’re wondering why my pictures look different in this post, it’s because Aaron and I have been experimenting with our friend Paul’s DSLR (Canon EOS 50D) over the past few days. I’m loving it. Even accidental photos (e.g. my foot, whilst adjusting the manual focus!) look good!
  • Aaron and I are currently researching Canon DSLR’s for our own investment… we love macro photography and would mostly be using it for food photography (me), nature (Aaron) and travel (Aaron and I). Any tips, good experiences, bad experiences? We would love to know what’s worked for people with similar interests.
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57 responses

  1. Your post is like pure eye candy for me … stunningly done and your photos are so fantastic.
    You should be a food stylist, they make good money. *smile As an hobby maybe.
    I wouldn’t fancy the lime and Tequila and Lime olives, but they other two I will eat until none left.
    Just love good olives … and I can eat them as just snacks.
    Just wonderful, Laura. – bring a jar with you … please when you’re coming. *smile

    • Aw, thanks Viveka. I would LOVE to be a food stylist… or to do anything related to food as a career! I have no idea how to start though, whilst also ensuring that I remain financially stable! *sigh* Maybe one day. Re the olives, I’d love to bring you some! I’ll have to make sure that there are a few batches ready when I travel overseas next year. At present it looks like I’ll be here in Perth ’til July/Aug 2014 though. Sorry to make you wait so long! xxx

      • When I worked in UK we used food stylists for all our food shots … very expensive – I’m sure you can find information with help of google. You would be excellent to style food shots.
        Don’t worry about the waiting time … on you and the olives – I don’t mind waiting for good things to come. *smile

      • Laura, I hope you really find something .. and goes for it, because you have it in you and it gives great money too.
        Good luck with your search.

  2. I am so impressed not just with your olives but the photo’s and instructions everything, this is amazing really. Your labor of love really turned out beautifully despite the ups and downs. Very nice.

    • Hello lovely Suz! Thanks so much for the kind words. Everything did turn out okay in the end, didn’t it (whew! So it doesn’t just happen in the movies!). I’m excited to see how much better they’ll taste in a few weeks xx

    • Haha, I try! I often fail but in this case it lasted… whew! No, I don’t have my own olive tree (I don’t even have a garden *sob*! At the moment I’m making do with two herb planter pots on my balcony). My friends Vicky and Mark have a beautiful organic garden, complete with pomegranates, various herbs, fruit trees, vegetables and a very productive olive tree. I took home a couple of large bags in June, determined to cure them myself! So glad that it worked out :) x

  3. Not sure if that comment went through – let me try again. This has been a really fun and educational series of posts. I have a new appreciation for olives! Curing them is more involved than I ever thought. It sounds like fun, although I’m not sure if I’m up for the amount of time it takes. But I really, really am glad you did it, so I could experience it through you. Thanks.

    • Hey John. Have you been experiencing problems when attempting to post on WordPress? Just wondering as it’s been happening to me frequently in the past two weeks. So, so frustrating. I’ve been manually entering the URL as authentication of my WordPress ID has been failing. Weird. Anyway, thanks so much for the kind words. It was indeed a labor of love (or stubbornness) and I’m glad that it actually worked successfully! I was quite concerned that the 2kg of salt would just lead to a pile of disgustingly mushy olives but I was proved otherwise. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading about the process. It’s been heaps of fun, despite the frustrations. Don’t be deterred if you’re one day ‘gifted’ with a few bags of raw olives, the end product makes up for the time required! :)

    • Thanks Whit. I’m pretty darn glad that my time and salt wasn’t all wasted (isn’t that a saying? “That man isn’t worth his salt!” I’m sure I heard it somewhere). Wish I could send you some. They’re pretty darn delicious! xx

  4. I don’t know why you called your blog, Laura’s Mess, when all I see in your blog is beauty, beauty and beauty. Beautiful food, photos, narrative, Talent! I didn’t know curing olives was this beautiful! :D )))

    • Haha, thanks so much Fae! I was thinking of a ‘creative mess’ (as there is a bit of flour and oil everywhere when I cook) and the ‘mess hall’ (food serving area at an army base). I do see what you mean, maybe the contrast will work to my advantage! Thanks so much for the beautiful words. I appreciate all the encouragement, as I’ve got a huge amount of admiration for what you’re doing at Twist and Tango! I do hope that food blogging will take me somewhere one day. We’ll see what happens. It’s heaps of fun in the meantime xx

  5. I think I already said this (or maybe not) but you sure impress me with your patience in curing olives. But definitely all the time and work must be so worth the amazing taste!

    • By the way, regarding the camera, I haven’t used the canon but I had got a Fujifilm XF1 (just in case you want to check it out, its cute too) for my birthday. It does macro and its amazing! I still have a lot to learn but I think my pictures have taken a big leap forwards!

    • Thanks lovely Sofia. It was definitely a bit time consuming but all worth it in the end. My patience is definitely limited at times but it paid off in this instance! Wish I could share some with you… want to come visit? :) Oh, and thanks for the camera tips – I definitely appreciate it! I’ve never used a Fujifilm. I was mostly considering a Canon as our friend Paul has a few lenses that he’s offered to share with us if we get a compatible camera body. Aaron has also owned Canon cameras for a while, so he’s familiar with how they work (on the other hand, I used to have an Olympus that I LOVED. It’s a bit outdated now though). Your pictures have definitely come a long way… I think both of us have improved immensely! It’s nice to see how much all of us have grown in the 18 months or so since we’ve been communicating as food bloggers. Thanks for sharing the road with me! xx

  6. Pingback: Curing Olives (and an Introduction to Hippy Vic) « Laura's Mess

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

  8. wow! was wondering if these would work! first shot too!! nice job honey x they look gorgeous so happy I’ve finally seen some in jars rather than rotting on the lawn or in the hungry beaks of local lorikeets grrrr:-/ awesome! Hess I can’t waste them anymore, a woman from the hills told me last season she processes hers every year but she doesn’t slice them at the start, I’m gona try that, you know I desperately need to taste one of each right? love x

    • Naw, thanks so much Vic my dear! They did work out well, beyond my expectations actually! You can definitely taste as many as you like. I actually have a jar that I dressed especially for you – it’s about 500g I think, so it should last you for a while. It’s yours next time we meet up! Hm, as this is my first attempt at the olives I have no idea if it’d work without scoring the fruit. From all I’ve read, it’s necessary for the actual brine to get into the olive flesh, speeding up the brining process. Maybe next year I’ll try it the ‘hill lady way’! Love you xx

  9. All’s well that end’s deliciously. Looks like this was labor well worth the effort and Laura, the photos and descriptions are so inviting and gorgeous you may be making an olive eater out of me (not fond of them generally) but who can resist these. Love the close up of the twine a lot – its texture comes through so clearly I want to touch it! Fantastic post.

    • Thanks Azita! Yes, I felt the same thing about the twine. It was like it was actually sticking out from the photograph… good cameras make such a difference! And yes, I wish I could give you some of these olives to see if you’d like them. I never used to like olives until I tried some home-marinated ones with citrus and coriander seeds. So different to the big vats of olives at supermarkets. Aaron doesn’t like olives much either, but I’m hoping he’ll like these. Fingers crossed! x

  10. Hi, Laura! I’m itching to give olives another try. I’ve been asking at the market but they’ve not arrived yet. This year, I hope to work get some black olives to work with. Reading your excellent post reminds me that I need to locate my notes and recipes. I know I put them here someplace. :)
    Your olive posts are great, Laura, very thorough and will come in handy for anyone interested in curing olives. Thanks!

    • Hey John! Thanks so much for the comment. YES, definitely give the olives another try! It took a long time but I feel very satisfied with my virgin attempt; the olives actually reached a nice level of softness without going too mushy… I look forward to actually trying them after they’ve been marinating for a few weeks. Yum! It’s strange to think that, on my side of the world, we’ve now just departed from the cold rainy winter into Springtime. You’re entirely opposite, so you’ve got all of the nice warm, slow-cooked dishes to look forward to in the lead up til Christmas. I’ve been haunting my local market for fresh berries. Cannot wait!

    • You’re completely right Paula, the time did go by quickly in the end. I’ve thought about making my own liqueurs too… I love the hazelnut and raspberry ones you posted some time back. I think I need to get myself into gear and try making one before the year is out! Thanks again for the kind words beautiful xx

  11. Orange and fennel? Tequila and lime? Yes, please!!! I am waiting for our olives here to ripen… All we have (that I have access to) are black olives, which s good as I am not as patient as you waiting 10 weeks for the green ones!

    • The green ones are definitely a trial of patience David! They taste good though, which is just as well (I would have otherwise thrown them out in a fit of rage!). Excited for your batch of ripening olives. Definitely try the orange and fennel dressing, I think that’s my favourite out of the four. Such a delicious celebration of home grown produce!

    • Hopefully you can track some down in your local area. Despite the time component, this process was ridiculously easy and the result has turned out to be wonderful! Weirdly enough, my husband isn’t a huge fan of olives unless I take the stone out. I’m going to be doing a lot of de-stoning over the next few weeks ;) xx

  12. Amazing Laura! You are so good at this! Or should I say a ‘pro’. Even the dressings are so lovely. I love all the pairings but Orange and fennel would be mindblowing! I wish Kendall a super speedy recovery.

    • Aw, Sonali you are too kind! Thanks so much for the lovely words and encouragement! Haha… not sure if I’m a pro after one attempt but I was definitely super-pleased with the result of all of the time I invested! I had this little twinge of fear that it would fail dismally. Definitely going to cure olives every year from now on. Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers for Kendall too xxx

    • Is it difficult to find fresh olives where you are? Aw, I wish I could send you a bucketload. My friend’s tree has been heaving with fruit this year. The tequila and lime olives are amazing… so delicious. Hope that you get to track down some fresh olives one day (or if necessary, just find some brined, undressed olives in an Italian grocer and dress them yourself! Just as good!)

  13. As was aforementioned. The patience of a saint came to mind. How cool though to have cured your own damn olives! I’m ready to mail order some fresh harvested ones to try this myself! Or move to CA.

    • Haha! It actually ended up being less annoying than it sounds. After a couple of weeks my impatience died down a bit and I stopped scrutinising them every day! The time was definitely worth it though. The olives are absolutely beautiful and I’m all ready to do the same thing next year! xx

    • Oh yay! That’s so great! It’s always wonderful to hear back from people who have actually had success with these recipes. I’ve left my olives to soak in the flavours for a week now, so I can’t wait to see how they’ll be in another couple of weeks. Thanks so much hon, you’re a legend xxx

  14. Pingback: Courgette Salad with Lemon Myrtle Oil, Chilli and Mint « Laura's Mess

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