Olive Curing

I take my lifestyle for granted. All the time. I can’t help it. It is my normal. But now and again, something reminds me, I am not normal. Most people don’t make their own soap, cure their own olives or make jams and jellies. Thankfully this is normal to me and I have a super cool family that has passed these arts down to me. YAY!

First some fun facts about California olives:

  • Olives were brought into California in the 1700’s by Franciscan missionaries from Mexico.
  • The trees can live from, on average 300 to 600 years (the oldest is over 5,000 years old!)
  • Generally, the hotter the region where the olives were picked, the bolder the flavor of olive oil.
  • 95% of the olives grown in California are canned as black-ripe or green-ripe olives.
  • California is responsible for producing 99% of all olive oil in the United States.
  • California is the only state where olives are grown commercially.
  • One ton of California olives produces 30-42 gallons of extra virgin olive oil.

 

This is what an olive tree looks like, pretty huh?

This is what an olive tree looks like, pretty huh?

However as I talk about this stuff on my social media I am often reminded that these arts are not as normal as they once were and I should be sharing and talking about them more than I do.

Ready to pick.

Ready to pick.

I realize this because I have stories like this: we had some friends over a few years ago. They were foodies. Now these foodies made it clear to me (a simple ranch kid) that they knew way more than this simple ranch kid about where food comes from. They knew from the internet and a class they took once. So of course I told them we had olive trees on the ranch and asked if they wanted to try fresh olives, right off the tree. Being experts in all things food, they were adamant that they must have some fresh olives.

Cured olives!

Cured olives!

Normally I would have explained to these people that fresh olives are gross and bitter and gross and nasty and we do not eat them until we cure them (did I mention they are gross and nasty?). But since these people were experts, who was I to tell them differently? It was pretty funny when they tasted the un-cured olives. They didn’t think so though.

My new olive crock! The 5 gallon crocks we had were just too big for me to handle. This is a 3 gallon and I love it.

My new olive crock! The 5 gallon crocks we had were just too big for me to handle. This is an 3 gallon and I love it.

Cured Olives

You will need:
Mature green olives
Lye
Water
Salt

Cleaned olives ready for lye.

Cleaned olives ready for lye.

Use olives that are mature but still green. You can purchase lye at most hardware stores. However due to all the meth-heads cooking drugs it’s getting harder and harder to find lye. Rinse you olives and pick all debris out. Place them in a glass or porcelain jars or crocks. You will then need to determine how much lye you will use.

Use gloves and safety glasses when working with lye. It's no joke.

Use gloves and safety glasses when working with lye. It’s no joke.

You will need to cover your olives with this lye solution. Add a solution that has been mixed at a ratio of 1 gallon of water (at 65 to 70 degrees) to 4 tablespoons lye. Soak your olives in this for 12 hours. (If you are working with a small amount of olives 1 quart of water to 1 tablespoon of lye works).

Adding the lye to the fresh olives (I did it outside because it scared me so  bad).

Adding the lye to the fresh olives (I did it outside because it scared me so bad).

The lye solution will have turned brownish after you have soaked your olives for 12 hours. This is good!
Now do the same thing again, with the same ratio of lye solution for another 12 hours. Drain and rinse with fresh water. Cut into the biggest olive, if the lye solution has reached the pit your cure is done! You will want to rinse and drain the olives 3 to 4 times after the lye has reached the pit.

Brown olive water. This is good.

Brown olive water. This is good.

If two lye baths weren’t enough, go ahead and do one more lye solution bath for 12 more hours. Rinse your olives again and soak in cold water.

Washed olives.

Washed olives.

Soak the olives in fresh, cold water changing the water three (or more) times a day for the next 3 days to 5 days. At the end of the 3 to 5 days, taste an olive to make sure there is no lye flavor!

Water is getting clearer!

Water is getting clearer!

Finally, soak the olives for at least one day and up to 3 days in a brine solution mixed at a ratio of 6 tablespoons salt to 1 gallon of water, changing the brine solution about every 12 hours. Congratulations, you’ve cured olives.

Yum.

Yum.

We like to add a chopped jalapeno or garlic cloves to our olives at this point. Store the olives, jalapeno and/or garlic in the brine solution in the frig. Use within two months.

Right after I added the brine, before I added the lids and placed in the refrigerator.

Right after I added the brine, before I added the lids and placed in the refrigerator.

References:

http://weolive.com/about-olive-oils/fun-facts/

http://www.foodreference.com/html/folives.html

http://fruitandnuteducation.ucdavis.edu/education/fruitnutproduction/

7 Comments

Filed under Ag, agriculture, arts & crafts, food, Know a California Farmer, photos, Ranch life, Uncategorized

7 Responses to Olive Curing

  1. This is so cool. When I was in Australia I drove past quite a few olive farms, but that was the first (and only) time I have seen them. Now hear is a question how do you get olive oil? Does it come from the fruit or the pit?
    http://www.crystalcattle.com

  2. Oh my gosh, that story about foodies eating raw olives! Hilarious! My grandparents grew olives commercially until the 1980s and my sister and cousins and I used to play in the olive groves that surrounded my grandparents’ house when we went to visit. One of the first things my grandpa taught us was “don’t eat the olives until they’ve been cooked or cured. They’ll make you sick.” I now work at a historic house museum where we have an old olive tree on the property. One of my former co-workers at the museum once mentioned that he wanted to try a fresh olive from our tree. I warned him and told him what my grandpa had said, but he didn’t believe me … the faces he made when he tasted that olive had me laughing for days!

    I’ll have to get a ladder and gather some of our olives and try curing them. I love olives!

  3. taryn

    I bought some raw olives from Whole Foods years ago and when I opened the lid it didn’t pop so I was afraid to eat them. They have now been in my fridge like I said for years. I just ate one. I hope I will survive..ha.
    no seriously will they make you sick?

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