The Great Olive Experiment Part 1

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My Mum arrived at my house last week with an enormous box of olives from my aunt and uncle’s garden. I’d nearly forgotten that they were going to give me some, so it took me a bit by surprise, and more so when I saw just how many there were. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of the box, but there were quite a few kilograms of them, ranging from green to deep dark purply-black.

Now, the last time I tried curing olives it involved soaking them in water and changing it every other day or so for weeks and weeks. Needless to say it wasn’t the success I’d hoped for, too many of the olives went bad and the texture of the rest wasn’t great. I think they were way too ripe (they came from a neighbour’s tree—I’d rescued them from being thrown out). So this time, I immediately hopped online to figure out the best way to cure them. Most recipes advocated soaking them in brine—essentially very salty water—for weeks. I also found some recipes for dry-curing or as it is sometimes called, “oil-curing”, which doesn’t actually involve oil, instead you pack the olives in salt. Armed with a lovely blogpost describing both methods, I gathered my ingredients and equipment, girded my loins and waded in.

Sadly, a lot of the olives were a little the worse for wear, bruised and dented. So I sorted through to pick out the least damaged ones and divided them into a batch of green to purple olives and a batch of purply-black olives. Don’t worry, there were still plenty of olives in each batch. According to all of the information I read online, the green ones have more of the bitter glucosides than the black ones, and hence need more soaking, so I decided to do the green-purple batch in brine and the purple-black ones in salt.

There really isn’t much to either method, so I’m not going to write a recipe, just list the steps.

  1. Wash the olives and then use a sharp knife to slit them so that the bitter compounds can escape more easily.
  2. For the brined olives, pack them into a large jar, then cover with brine (warm up water in a saucepan, then dissolve enough salt into it so that an egg—raw and still in its shell—floats, then let it cool.). Use a ziplock bag containing water to press the olives down into the solution if you need to.
  3. For the dry-cured olives, layer olives and salt in a jar so that all of the olives are completely covered in the salt.
  4. Put both batches in the cupboard and give them a good shake every week or so.
  5. Start tasting the brined batch after a few weeks, keep tasting regularly until they start to taste like salty olives, not bitter ones.
  6. Start tasting the salt-packed olives after about three weeks, again, taste regularly until you like the taste.
  7. Rinse off the brine/salt, and repackage in more brine, or vinegar or olive oil. I’ll let you know what I do here when I get to that point.
  8. Eat!

In case you’re wondering, I used pure salt (no added iodine) from the supermarket. Nothing fancy, because I used around 3.5 kg of it, close to 3 kg in the salt-packed batch and another 0.5kg in the brine. I have two 2L jars of the salt-packed olives and a 3L jar that is about two-thirds full for the brined batch.

I’ll keep you updated as the curing progresses. Wish me luck!!

 

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