Sunday, 5 August 2007

Curing olives

A colleague of Simon's had picked a heap of olives (from some trees that are over 70 years old), then had no time to cure them, so we took up the challenge to do so!

We had two recipes to try. I had tried curing olives a few years ago when we were still living in WA. I used a curing recipe from Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion (1st edition, p.631 if you have a copy). It worked OK, and used less salt than the one we recently tried, which is by Andrew Cope (who I think is linked to the Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder). It goes something like this:

  1. dissolve 1 cup salt in 3 litres of water in a large jar or bucket (not steel or aluminium)
  2. slit each olive lengthways to the stone and toss into the salted water
  3. replace the salt liquid everyday for 1 week, then once a week for the next 3 weeks, or until the bitter taste of the olives is gone
  4. sterilise some jars (with a good seal)...then this is where we changed the recipe...
  5. you can either store the olives in a salt wter brine with a layer of olive oil on top
  6. if you want to use the brine: mix 1/2 cup salt with 3 litres water, bring to the boil then cool before using...
  7. otherwise, we used a 50-50 mix of red wine vinegar (good quality) and an extra virgin olive oil with a mix of herbs and spices, such a lemongrass, chilli, coriander seeds, bay leaves, garlic gloves, oregano (dried/fresh) and thyme. Mix to your preference.
  8. We then let the olives sit for about 6 weeks before trying them.

A couple of 'learnings'...

We started with a mix of green and black olives. Black olives are simply ripened green olives and have a softer form. On reflection we would separate the olives which means the black ones wouldn't need as long to cure (they can become quite mushy otherwise).

Also, we probably didn't use the best olive oil for the jars and come tasting time, it really showed. The olives themselves were divine, and the red wine vinegar worked a treat, but the olive oil we used let the team down!

A work colleague asked me, 'aren't you worried about the amount of water used?' The answer is yes. What could be done with the salty water, other than throw it away? We could revert back to Stephanie's recipe were the salt is not introduced to the curing process until close to bottling, then you can re-use the water on your garden for example.

Anyway, we're always learning! here are some other curing webpages that might be of interest if you want to give olive curing a go yourself. (good alternatives if you're concerned about disposing of salt water)

And, if you've had success with curing olives, we'd love to hear from you!

1 comment:

Karl & June said...

The more I look the more different methods of pickling olives I find :)

we cure our olives quite differently. I'll have to give your method a go next autumn.