Cured olives (in progress)

I don’t eat a lot of olives, but I do enjoy nicely marinated olives alongside some cheese, cured meat, fruit paste and bread, crackers/biscuits.  At this time of year fresh olives are sold in the local markets, so I decided to buy some and have a go at curing.  Marinated olives in delis can be as expensive as $30/kg ($15/lb), where as I bought some nice, medium-small green olives for $2/kg ($1/lb) and some very ripe, large black olives for $6/kg ($3/lb).  Fresh olives are very bitter and unpalatable because of oleuropein and other phenolic compounds naturally in the olive.  The curing process breaks down and removes these compounds so the olives can be eaten.  After the curing process, the marinating process happens.  I’ve only started the curing process, and will update accordingly.  After the photos some details will follow…

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There are a range of different curing methods, some ‘preferred’ for different types of olives, which I followed.  For the black olives, there are some different options but I tried the dry salt method.  Wash the olives, pat dry, prick with a toothpick or score with a knife*, and then pack them in salt, enough that each olive is fully encased in salt (use a 1:1 weight ratio).  You can use a wooden crate for this, or as I did, cheese cloth which I have set on top of a grated pan (for the liquid from the olives to drain), or hang.  Place the olive-salt mix outside (12-18 C, 52-65 F; ideal Autumn/Winter) in a dry location and let sit for 4-6 weeks, followed by washing of the salt off the olives, brief boiling, and then marinating.  For the green olives, I have used the water method.  Wash the olives, prick with a toothpick or score with a knife*, and then fully submerge in water.  Change the water daily for 4-6 weeks, followed by marinating.  I’ll update this post accordingly…

*The skin of the olive is such a great barrier that it needs to be broken before curing.  The options are cracking (smashing the olives with a rolling pin, etc.), pricking with a toothpick or scoring with a knife.  The olives will still cure without these techniques, but will take3-4 times as long.

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