Saturday, November 17, 2012

Curing olives ~ a labor of love

Every year for the last 3 years I have cured olives for our home consumption. The first time I did it though it was helping a friend do her own stash and it was such fun and hers tasted so good a few months down the line that I had to try it myself. I eventually found a local farmer who would sell me 20kgs a year and so began the process.

Fresh raw olives

We can only get black mission olives from our farmer and while I used to always buy Calamata from the store, I have learnt to enjoy Black Mission now.

In the beginning I wonder why I put myself through this as I change the water each day for 2 weeks. It's a bother to drain the water and refill all these jars each day. For this process I only use tap water but later on I switch to spring water for the long wait.

Floating egg

So after 2 weeks of sitting in fresh water, changed everyday I switch them to brine. They sit in brine for up to 3 months which draws out the last bitterness and allows them to develop their flavor.

Figuring out the water to salt ratio is fun the first time but to get it right with each jar it becomes a bit long in the tooth as I end up pouring more and more salt into the water to get the egg to float.The floating egg indicates the right amount of salinity to the water which is the perfect brine ratio.

After about 3 months I rinse an olive or two from each 5 liter jar and taste it. They are very salty at this stage but what I am looking for is no bitter after taste. If they are not at this stage then they stay in the brine for a few more weeks. I taste again more or less every two weeks until they are salty, but bitter free.

Rosemary olives
Now is the fun time! Jar by jar I rinse the olives and put them back into the jars with a 1:3 ratio of wine vinegar/red wine/apple cider vinegar to water. I tried all three this time. Then to each jar I add about 10 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and whole.

I then add something different in the line of herb or spice. This years batches are one each of chilli and fennel seed. Another 2 jars received about 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary and still another 2 recieved handfulls of majoram. Another 2 were left with just garlic. I do not add salt to this last solution as the olives retain enough salt from the brining process.

Lastly I add a generous layer of locally produced olive oil called Olive Pickers. I could buy the cheaper imported stuff, but I like the flavour of this one.

They will now sit in the jars in a cupboard and be eaten over the next year until it is Autum 2013 when the process starts again.

In our home, olives are eaten daily as anytime snacks, used in breads and salads and this year I am very keen to make some tapenades...but we'll see.

Have you tried curing olives?


Wayne Jones said...

Sounds delightful. We are only able to find commercially prepared olives here but as an olive lover I envy your oportunity. Enjoy and keep us, your loyal readership informed.

Kit said...

I have tried when our few olive trees were bearing. The olives were OK , but I don't think I got the whole process quite right. I never worked out when to move them from the brine to the marinade solution.
Our trees haven't had anything at all fora few years, so need to find out how to get rid of the bugs that are stopping them bear fruit before I have another go.

Urban Homestead South Africa said...

Hi Wayne, will do. Glad you enjoy my posts.

And cool that you have your own trees. We have two baby ones...still a while yet before they give us fruit.