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Nov 4, 2010

Cure your own olives, Part 2


Part 1 of this two-part post covered the initial steps in curing your own green olives: pick ‘em, nick ‘em, and stick ‘em (in water). Now let’s move on to the fun stuff…

As I mentioned in Part 1, it takes about a month of changing water daily to remove the harsh bitterness from olives. You don’t have to completely remove the bitterness—some of you, like me, might like to retain just a bit of bite. When the olives have reached a state that pleases you, it’s time to add some flavor:
  1. Empty the jar of olives into a strainer. Rinse the olives under cold water and set aside. Wash the jar and lid you’ve been using with hot, soapy water and also set that aside.
  2. Mix 3 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt in a small pan; bring to a boil and let salt dissolve. Let the mixture cool.
  3. Put the olives back in the clean jar. Fill the jar to the top with the salt mixture. Set aside for three or four days in a cool place. 
  4. Taste the olives. Do you like the taste, or do you feel they need a saltier brine? Either way, empty the water. You’ll now create a final brine, adjusting it to suit your taste. So if you want saltier olives, add more salt to the mix given above. Then let the brine cool before filling the jar. Store the olives from now on in the fridge. You'll make them delectable by using one or both of the alternatives below.

I took this photo last year at Toronto's fabulous St. Lawrence Market  Credit: Suzanne Rodriguez
  • The Simple-but-Luscious Olive Alternative: At this time you can add other things to the jar, such as lemon wedges, oregano, and/or slices of garlic. Some people add vinegar or lemon juice, and even olive oil, but I don’t. In fact, I just keep the olives in a plain brine. I love them that way, but I also jazz them up in small batches (see the next step). 
  • The Creative & Oh-So-Luscious Olive Alternative: Remove olives from the jar—let’s say a cup’s worth. Let your imagination run riot. For instance, you might marinate the olives in a mixture of olive oil, oregano, and garlic. Maybe you’ll throw in a dash of lemon juice or some thinly-sliced lemon rind, or even a dried chili pepper. Let the olives sit at room temperature for a few hours, turning them around with a spoon every once in a while. They’ll be fab—and you get to tell your guests that you made them yourself!
      A caution: I usually make a few jars of these olives, munching them and giving them as gifts in little jars over the space of a month or so--that's how long they stay good in the fridge. After that they get soft and squishy, which I for one find incredibly unappetizing.

      So enjoy! The olives in Sonoma are just beginning to turn black, so in a couple of weeks I’ll create a batch of salt-cured olives. I love these for cooking. They store just great in the freezer, so I use them all year long. I’m  just getting to the very end of last year’s batch and am ready for more.

      And if you love olives, you'll love this cookbook: Olives: More than 70 Delicious & Healthy Recipes.

      Bon app├ętit!

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