How to Cure Green Olives

My attempts at curing green olives have not always been successful.  The methods that I fresh green oliveshad heard about from local farmers involved putting the olives in a salt water brine – though the amount of salt varied wildly – or washing the olives daily for months, and paying the ensuing water bill. In fact, after throwing out my third batch of ghastly smelling soggy olives that I was too afraid to taste,  I decided to give up on curing green olives. 

Then a neighbor showed me an easy way to cure olives that does not require a long brining process, or checking on them on a daily basis and constant water baths. This inspired me to try again. 

Though this recipe is easy, it does take time for the olives to finish curing before they are edible, but they can be put away on a shelf and forgotten about for a couple of months.  

Here’s how to cure green olives:  

1 ½ lbs. (680 grams) fresh green olives
1 carrot, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
1 qt (1 liter) white wine vinegar
1 TB (1 soup spoon) sea salt
½ cup (120 ml) water
Olive oil to cover

Wash and dry the olives, which should be firm and healthy.  It is okay if some of the olives have ripened to the partially black stage and they have a purplish blush.  In Sicily, we call these “black and white olives” (even though they are purple and green!)

With a sharp knife, make 4 incisions lengthwise on each olive, spacing the incisions cutting olives for cureevenly apart- don’t worry, no one is going to measure.

Place the olives with their incisions in a non-reactive bowl with the finely chopped carrot and celery.  Add the salt, water, and enough vinegar to cover the olives.  (If you have a larger amount of olives than this recipe, increase the water and salt accordingly.)  Mix well and cover with a paper napkin. 

Stir the contents of the bowl once or twice a day.  After 4 days, the olives should have darkened to a fairly uniform dark green color, and become soft (but not mushy.)  If they are still hard, wait another day.  

Drain the olive/vinegar mixture in a colander.  Make sure that you drain the mixture very well-wait a few minutes and toss the olives in the colander to get rid of excess liquid.

drained olives

Put the drained olive mixture in a clean storage jar (1 ½ – 2 qt or 1 ½ to 2 liters) and cover the olive mixture with good olive oil.  Make sure the oil covers the olives so that olives in oilthey are completely submerged.  The olives should not rise above the oil or they will spoil.

Now comes the hard part – waiting.  Place the jar of olives in a cool dark place and let them rest for at least 2 months before tasting.  The olives should have a pleasantly acidic taste from the vinegar, which has been balanced by the oil.

Some ancient olive trees in Italy have been producing olives for hundreds of years.  Read about Saracen olive trees.

Read similar posts: How to prepare lampascioni.

16 Responses to “ How to Cure Green Olives ”

I live in Spain, and we have special high-sided wooden trays which are pierced with 3 holes of varying sizes, each with 4 blades at the side. The olives are pushed through the appropriately sized hole and emerge with four cuts, and then fall into a large ceramic (or plastic) bowl which you have rested the board on top of.

We place these bowls of slashed olives under the down pipe from our roof guttering, as our rainy season coincides with the olive harvest. After approximately a month all bitterness and tannin has been removed, then we marinade with fennel seed, bitter orange rind, garlic cloves, wine vinegar and olive oil. Peppercorns and salt of course.

Very interesting equipment- I like the flavor combinations, though not so sure about the pipe- lot of strange things find their way into my rain gutters.

I have just completed a month of curing green olives in water, changing the water twice a day. This is my very first attempt to cure olives. I noticed that some olives have changed from bright green to a darker olive color. Should I wait longer to put them in a brine or won’t they ever all have a uniform color? Also I love the fact that you are giving me a traditional Italian recipe for the brine. I guess it’s in my blood, my family has had olive orchards in Sicily for generations. Since I have had my olives in water for 30 days, can I adapt your recipe at the point?

Hi Nadine- I am not sure about the method you are using, but since the goal is to get rid of the bitterness from the olives, I would suggest that you taste them- if they are still bitter, continue soaking (I would tend to think they should all be close to the same color when ready.) When the olives are ready (no longer bitter), no, you would not use my process for curing olives, as you have already “cured” yours by soaking. I believe at this point you can dress them with oil and herbs-store covered in oil to avoid spoilage, or keep a smaller quantity of dressed olives in the fridge. Good luck!

Is there no need to put them in a water bath?

That’s right Debbie, no need for water bath. Just make sure that olives have lost their bitterness before going to the adding the oil stage. Let me know how they turn out!

If the olives turn dark is because they were not submerged in the first process. My recipe takes a very long time. However, part of the process you describe is the same: ten days, twice a day, submerge the olives. I put them in jars right away and use the usual mixture of the egg floating. I put two teaspoons of vinegar. Close the jars with the boiling water method. The olives will take at least seven months, from September till March or April. But, my olives last at least four years and more. So, I have olives year round, and when the following fall arrives, I’ll start again. Aribbon and give many jars away for the holidays. You will never fail, if you willing to wait seven months. By the way, I believe that olive oil turns the olives bitter again. Ciao

Ok, here I go. I will get back to you in a few months. Missing Italy as I read your blog…ciao for now.

[...] Did a little “surfing”, toyed with potentially poisoning my family with lye water, but then landed on this approach.  It comes from a woman who is living in Italy.  She has tried various recipes and landed on this one.  I say “better her than me”.  So I am stealing from her experience and am curing my own olives with this method.… [...]

I shall await your results!

Just opened up my jar. They are perfectly crunchy, not bitter at all. Wonderful! Thanks for your blog. I will continue to spread the word!

So glad to hear your olives turned out well, Chef. And yes, spread the word!

I just need a little clairity on the recipe.. After the four days of soaking in the mixture then you drain the olives but do you remove the carrots and celery when you drain? Then after you drain do you put the olives and NEW fresh carrots and celery and salt water and vinegar and olive oil in the jars… Or do you just use the olives and old carrots and celery in the jars with only olive oil to cover the olives? Thank you in advanced as we are first time olive curers :)

Nicole- You don’t remove the carrots and celery, and after the soaking period, the entire mixture is drained of vinegar and covered with oil. Just make sure bitterness is gone from olives before draining. Let me know how they turn out!

I was surfing the net for preserved lemon recipes and stumbled upon several videos and blogs for preserving olives. Most used lemons in the preparation thats why they were on preserving lemon sites. Last year I tried putting olives in a jar with salted water, but they foamed and were moldy and slimy!. Yuk! However… this year armed with my new knowledge I will try again with a combination of ideas that seem to make good sense. First, you put one layer of olives in a ziplock bag and with a meat tenderizer (or a rock as my mother in law does) crack the olives. Then, soak the olives for 3- 4 days in water. This will help to get the bitterness out but also I think it will help with the curing. Second, Make a brine of salt and water and place an uncooked egg in the water. If the egg floats there is enough salt! No kidding! It really works. Third, place a slice or two of lemon in the jar, put in the olives and spices that you like. Fill the jar with the brined water. Finally top with a good tablespoon on olive oil. This will hold the olives under the water. Then comes the hard part… waiting at least 4-6 weeks. Ususally we spice the olives after you open the jar and rinse them. We use hot pepper flakes, olive oil, finely chopped garlic and oregano. A chunk of bread, a piece of cheese, a glass of wine and thats dinner! Ha! Thanks for posted your method I learned yet another trick to good olives.!

Sounds good!


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