Curing olives: aceitunas

black olives freshly picked

Who knew there were edible olives in the garden?  If my gardener friend hadn’t told me (after he started pruning) I’d be none the wiser.  Hence the introduction of Preserving Olives 101.

Lesson 1: As I rummaged amongst the cuttings to salvage as many olives as possible I was surprised to see they were black. Olives are black because they are allowed to ripen on the tree and green olives are picked before they are ripe.   I always assumed they were different types…duh.   Olives can be preserved at any stage of ripeness.  Also olives must be treated to reduce oleuropein (an acidic compound that makes them horribly inedible and bitter) in their natural state.  There is more oleuropein in unripe olives ie green vs black.


Lesson 2: There are 4 main ways to preserve olives:  lye, brine, water or salt.

Scanning quickly through the 4 methods – WATER (needs changing daily), BRINE (fiddly), LYE (scary) and SALT (easy) – no guess for my preference.  I chose the SALT method, which was also the method used by the ancient Greeks, of course!

Commercial olive producers use lye to ripen the olives artificially and neutralise  bitterness. You know those tinned black olives with their mushy texture? That’s from lye and almost all processed olives use lye for part of the curing.

Here’s a good WikiHow summary of the different methods for curing olives should you want to know more.

Lesson 3:  How to dry cure olives in salt.   Quite simple in theory…wash olives and let dry on a tea towel and then basically layer black olives with coarse salt in a glass jar and shake daily for 3 weeks.  Rinse to remove salt. Test for bitterness.  Continue curing if still quite bitter.

After watching this Youtube video with the winning title How to Cure Raw Olives the Easy Way using only 2 Ingredients I was sold.

olives from my gardenolivesinjar-Nov2014

Lesson 4:  Disaster or success?  It’s an adventure.  Lesson plan continues after 3 weeks…