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.


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.

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.

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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