Olives - how to cure them for eating

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surfingdevil

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Olives - how to cure them for eating
« on: January 09, 2013, 11:37:22 AM »
After trying to find information on harvesting and pickling your own olives, I discovered that when I type in olives in the search box, there is nothing about olives in this Fruit & Veg section, though there is a lot about them under Trees and Shrubs (click here to find it. So, I thought I'd pop a new topic here to see if anyone else has any experience curing the strange little fruits.  We have only two olive trees and for the last couple of years have just watched them rot and drop off, but this year...we have begun harvesting.  The olives are now black as we had no time to pick them before.  I am in the process (10 - 14 days possibly) of doing water changes for them to get rid of their bitterness, then I will pickle them in brine and lemon.

Has anyone else done this with their own olive trees?  I don't think we would have enough olives to be worth pressing, unless I could make my own olive press! We will see what happens.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 09:56:28 AM by Alisdair »
Trying to live the dream in Sa Pobla, Mallorca, Spain.  Blogger, writer, artist and English teacher.  Live with hubby and child.  Love the outdoors, love gardening, love farming, trying to be more self sufficient.

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yvesans

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2013, 12:01:09 PM »
I have one olive tree which I get enough olives from to last me a year. I had little success with the water brine method but found dry curing works great! Get a large plastic container (bit bigger than your quantity of olives) and put a hole in the bottom, then put the cleaned olives inside and about 1/4 the olives volume sea salt with the olives and mix up. Soon the liquid will start coming out and you need to top up with salt regularly, whole process takes about 3 weeks.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 09:44:58 AM by Alisdair »
Active gardener all year round in Cyprus, nature always wins!

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JTh

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2013, 12:16:07 PM »
I have been pickling our own olives for several years, but I my only experience is with rather green olives harvested relatively early in the autumn. I either slice the olives once with a razor blade or smash them lightly  with a clean, smooth stone before going through the water change process, how long depends on how bitter they are, it also takes less time when you  smash them. I then add the brine and leave them for some weeks before eating them.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 09:45:11 AM by Alisdair »
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.

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John J

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2013, 02:02:54 PM »
Jorun's method sounds exactly like the one that people I know here in Cyprus use. The water is changed daily until the olives are ready to be stored in brine. I have heard that the salinity of the brine is tested by using a raw egg, when it floats the correct solution has been acheived.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 09:45:23 AM by Alisdair »
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"Aphrodite emerged from the sea and came ashore and at her feet all manner of plants sprang forth" John Deacon (13thC AD)

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yvesans

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2013, 02:48:33 PM »
John, that method seems to work ok with green olives but not black, most black olives that you buy are I believe are chemically cured (lye). The tree I have produces large Kalamata type olives and the brine treatment just would not take the bitterness out. The dry salting leaves them slightly shriveled and wrinkly like the ones you buy and a wonderful taste.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 09:45:37 AM by Alisdair »
Active gardener all year round in Cyprus, nature always wins!

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JTh

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2013, 03:43:41 PM »
I have never heard that black olives can’t be treated the same way, but it is said to take longer before the bitterness disappears. I agree that black/ripe olives will be softer and more shrivelled (especially if you put them in salt right away) than those harvested early.  If you buy firm, black olives, it means that they, after treatment with lye, have been treated with ferrous sulphate or similar chemical ingredients to turn them black artificially .
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 09:45:59 AM by Alisdair »
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.

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yvesans

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2013, 03:55:08 PM »
I agree John its just that it didn't seem to work on the olives I had, Cypriot "local" olives are smaller and I think have a lower water content than the tree I have, everyone said to oil mine but I really didn't have enough.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 09:46:13 AM by Alisdair »
Active gardener all year round in Cyprus, nature always wins!

surfingdevil

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2013, 04:16:09 PM »
This is interesting.  I can say that I have one batch of black olives in water, as we speak.  I did that yesterday.  I read, and the locals here have told me, that you don't have to cut or smash the black ones only the green ones, and they are done with a stone.  We will be collecting another batch (and the final batch) possibly tomorrow, so I may do the dry cured method with them, and we will see which comes out better.  There seem to be so many different types of olive and here in Mallorca the local bars all serve olives, and they taste different from every bar/restaurant.

From what I have managed to glean off the internet, black olives should be in water for about 10-14 days or until the bitterness has gone, with a fresh water change each day, then they should be transferred to the brine.

My landlord here told me to fill a large bucket/bin/container (plastic) with water and pop in a fresh egg (fresh eggs always sink to the bottom), add salt and mix round with your hand, keep adding salt until the egg floats! then throw in your olives, cover and leave for at least a week.  You can leave them for up to 6 months, but we don't have that many so I expect by the end of the summer they'll be all gone! who knows.

I have noticed that in some of the local restaurants the olives can be horribly bitter! others have a wonderful, full and much smoother flavour to them.  I can't eat the more bitter ones! I hope people will keep me posted with their olive adventures.  It is all new to us, but so fulfilling to be able to produce your own foods.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 09:47:09 AM by Alisdair »
Trying to live the dream in Sa Pobla, Mallorca, Spain.  Blogger, writer, artist and English teacher.  Live with hubby and child.  Love the outdoors, love gardening, love farming, trying to be more self sufficient.

Alice

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2013, 05:02:39 PM »
The following is the method I have used for curing olives for the past few years:
1. Make two slits in the olives.
2. Soak in water for 12-15 days (up to 18 days for large olives or if they are still bitter), changing the water daily.
3. Soak for 2 days in brine (100 g salt in 1 litre tepid water per kg of olives, or use the floating egg technique).
4. Soak for 24 hours in a 50:50 mixture of vinegar and water; or for 12 hours in pure vinegar.
5. Store in glass jars in olive oil, to which flavourings have been added if required (garlic slivers, thyme, oregano, bay leaves etc)

I treat green and black olives the same way.
I have on occasion (when there hasn't been enough time) cut out the water soaking phase and instead added them directly to brine and left them for 4-5 months. They were fine, if a little too salty. I have heard of people treating them in sea water and also of dry curing with salt but have not tried these methods.
This method does give them a vinegary taste, which some people might not like.
Storing them in olive oil gives them a smooth taste but uses up a lot of olive oil. This, however, can be used on salads.
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.

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JTh

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2013, 06:00:33 PM »
Joanna, when you say vinegar, what is the acidity of this? Sounds like a tasty variation.
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.

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Alisdair

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2013, 07:35:53 PM »
I found out in chemistry classes at school that I was one of the many males who have a genetic quirk that stops us being able to taste bitterness in a compound called propylthiouracil, which is what gives many things including coffee and many beers their bitter taste. That may be why I enjoy both coffee and beers so much!
The main compound which makes olives taste bitter is different - oleuropein. It's soluble in water, which is why the repeated washings get rid of it (and why even cold-pressed olive oil loses it, though some oils may get a slightly bitter taste from some other related compounds).
What I'd like to know - and maybe Jorun knows the answer to this - is whether people vary genetically in their ability to taste this olive bitterness, as they do with "prop" bitterness.
Incidentally, when we first built our house in Greece about 15 years ago, a man down in the seaside village of Stoupa used to float a hessian sack of eating olives under water in the sea there for two or three weeks, tied to a couple of rocks, for their washing. I've not seen that recently there, though.
Alisdair Aird
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Alice

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2013, 07:51:27 PM »
Did you mean me, Jorun?
Kalamata olives are often prepared in vinegar/oil. Perhaps you can get hold of some at your local supermarket to see whether you like the acidity. I am rather fond of the taste. I suspect vinegar helps preserve the olives as well.
Interesting facts about tasting bitterness, Alisdair. And I am sure people have found short-cuts when it comes to olive curing. Why go to all the bother of changing the water every day when you can just dangle them in the sea?!
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.

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JTh

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2013, 08:40:06 PM »
Sorry, Alice, of course I meant you. I suppose you use regular table vinegar (around 6-7 % acetic acid), and not pure 'distilled vinegar' (> 30 % acetic acid)?

I don't think I share your genetic quirk for not tasting the bitter components, Alisdair, so I don't like Campari! But I love olives, although it took me quite a while to get used to the taste. I will never forget my disappointment the first time I tasted an olive in France, I was 16, they looked so good, and tasted so horrible.

I'm sorry, I don't know anything about taste for olives and genetic variability, it was not a part of my veterinary education, but I would not be surprised to see if that is the case, it sounds logical.

I have simplified the preparing of the olives a little lately, I learnt it from my neighbours. I put the olives in bottles right away, sometimes it is a bit difficult because some of the olives are so big that the bottle necks are too small. It does not take much time to change water that way. 
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.

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westyboy

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2013, 11:25:26 PM »
I tried preparing my own Olives for the first time last year.
My method was very similar to the one Alice used.

When I finally stored them in the jars,
I placed a slice of lemon and a sprig of Rosemary/Thyme  at the bottom of each jar.
They tasted great, but when we got to the last jar (after six months)
they were starting to get a bit soft.

I think the secret is, eat them quicker. ;)

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Having spent years gardening in the South of England. I thought I was alone struggling with my Mediterranean garden.
Then one day I stumbled upon The MGS and it looks like all my questions can be answered.

Alice

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Re: Olives - how to cure them for eating
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2013, 02:36:16 AM »
Yes, ordinary table vinegar (about 6% acetic acid), Jorun.
You have to be careful not to leave them in it too long, otherwise they become too sour.
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.