following passage comes from Lynn Alley's book "Lost Arts
- A Cook's Guide to Curing Olives, Crafting Fresh Goat Cheese
and Simple Mustards, Baking Bread and Growing Herbs".
The book can be ordered through many bookstores by giving the
title, author, publishing date (1995) and the ISBN details 0-89815-674-2.
Brine Cure ... is simple and safe, and it offers the most plausible
response to my question about who first discovered that the olive
was, given the right circumstances, edible.
suppose it's possible that, long ago, some olives fell into a
saltwater tide pool and stayed there undisturbed for a considerable
length of time. Then one day someone, perhaps a housewife or fisherman,
happened by and decided to give one a try. Much to her delight,
the olives had become pleasantly salty and quite edible.
doubt, she then took some home to her humble abode and, to her
even greater delight, was able to duplicate the process. People
still cure olives today in some Greek islands by dipping a basket
of olives daily into the sea for 10 days. When the inner flesh
is dark brown, the olives are ready to eat.
begin the brine processing, place your clean olives in cold water
and change the water each day for 10 days. (I use large, plastic,
covered buckets from a local restaurant supply.) Weight the olives
down with a plate so they all stay submerged. No need to
seal at this point.
will start leaching the bitter glucosides out of the olives. At
the end of the ten day period you can make a more permanent brine
solution in which to continue the process. Add one cup of
noniodized salt to each gallon of water. Use enough of this brine
to cover the olives.
this solution weekly for four weeks, transfer the olives to a
weaker brine solution until you are ready to use them. The
solution should contain one half cup of noniodized salt
to each gallon (4.2 litres) of water.
how long it will take for your olives to become edible I cannot
say. Mine seem to take about two or three months to develop
a rich, olivey flavour. The best piece of equipment you have for
assessing when the olives are done is located between your
nose and your chin. It doesn't cost much to maintain (outside
of your regular dental checkups), so use it!
your olives in the weaker brine in a fairly cool, dark place and
keep them covered. A scum may form on the top of the olives,
but according to my mother's Italian neighbours, this simply adds
to the flavour of the olives! (One of my Italian sources
swears that this is the "culture which consumes the
bitterness of the olives.") Toss out the scum and use any
olives that look unspoiled. (A squishy olive is a spoiled olive.)
note: Using the pickling method outlined above, and the
complete absence of salt during the initial ten day rinsing period,
bacteria can form and turn the fruit soft and rotten during
the following weeks. If this happens, you will lose your
entire production. Experiment with it, use about 5% salt solution
for one batch and no salt for another batch. To care for the environment,
there are some commercial methods that do not use the daily rinse
following five recipes come from the Beaumont Nursery Catalogue
of many years ago. The Brock family who operated the nursery
have since moved on, but Beaumont House, which was taken
over by the National Trust in about 1976, is very much a landmark
today. Beaumont House was Sir Samuel Davenport's original
home in the 1850's.
nursery catalogue claims that the first olive trees imported to
Australia were shipped by Sir Samuel Davenport and planted
on his Beaumont property in 1844. Our thanks go to the Brock
family for the years they spent in developing the Australian Olive
is a very simple matter to pickle olives and all you need is a
small wooden vat or barrel or an earthenware jar with an open
top similar to a glazed bread crock, and if you are interested
the following recipes may be of some assistance to you:
to all the following recipes, it is essential that when pickling,
the olives must not be bruised in any way. Fruit must be picked
just as the olive is turning colour from green, that is when it
shows a small patch of pinkish purple and is commencing
to soften. Always cover the containers to exclude all light.
Place olives carefully in container, cover the olives with a caustic
soda solution (3 oz. of caustic soda to 1 gallon rainwater) for
40 to 48 hours (no longer), using a piece of flat, clean
wood to keep them below the surface of the liquid. At the end
of 48 hours pour off the caustic liquid, then cover with fresh
rainwater and continue the renewing and pouring off of the water
twice daily, night and morning, for at least one week (until
all caustic soda is eliminated.) Do not worry if olive is
bitter to taste.
mix well 1/2 lb. of salt to one gallon of rainwater and cover
the olives in this solution for a week, then drain. You
then mix 3/4 lb. salt (12 oz.) to each gallon of rainwater, cover
for another week and drain again. You then place the olives into
jars. A-Gee jars or similar. Place jars in tub of very hot
water up to their necks and fill with a boiling brine solution
(3/4 lb/ salt to one gallon of water) to overflowing and
seal immediately. As the jars cool the rubber rings will
seal the tin inner lids perfectly and the olives will keep
Place olives in vat and cover with a caustic soda solution (1
lb. caustic soda to five gallons of rainwater). Allow to
stand for 18 to 20 hours, then pour off the dark brown liquid.
Keep washing in rainwater until the water comes away clear, changing
the water each day. This will take seven or eight days.
Then bottle the olives in A-Gee jars or other suitable containers.
Stand jars in tub of very hot water up to their necks and
then pour boiling brine solution over olives to overflowing and
seal immediately. This brine to be one cup of salt to 12 cups
(for green olives). Dissolve 1 lb. caustic soda in five
gallons of water. Pour over the olives and let stand for 15 hours.
Drain this off and cover the olives with clear, cold water, and
when this becomes discoloured pour it off. Continue in this way
until water remains clear. Pack the olives into jars and cover
then with a strong solution of salt & water (one part
of salt to five parts of water), which has previously been
boiled for 10 minutes, then seal.
(green olives). three ozs. of caustic soda dissolved in one gallon
cold rainwater (glass or stone or wood containers) in sufficient
quantity to cover the olives to be processed.
Cover to exclude all light. Cover olives with this solution,
according to size of olives, 20 to 24 hours. Then wash with running
water for at least 3 days (exclude all light) and drain
then. Add a prepared solution of 1/2 lb salt per gallon of water
and change every day for at least 12 days. Then drain, bottle
and cover with a fixing solution of brine, 3/4 lb salt to one
gallon of water (use coarse salt. "from the butchers".)
No 5. (Our
experience of this recipe is that the olives do not keep more
than a few months). Place olives in container of wood, glass or
earthenware and cover with a solution of caustic soda, 5 dessert
spoons to one gallon of water, for 48 hours. Then pour off and
keep washing in pure cold rainwater until water is clear and natural
(change water each day). Then place in jar and cover with
brine solution (1 1/2 lb. salt to each gallon of water) and seal.
Ready in seven days. When the supplier of this recipe was told
his recipe did not keep too long he replied: "If you like
pickled olives there will be no need for them to keep!"
Australia's Favourite Method
are many different ways to prepare olives and the following old
Greek recipe is one of the simplest. Commercial pickling
processes generally use caustic soda, food acids and salt. This
old fashioned recipe uses salt only.
can be pickled when green or black. A black olive is simply a
ripe olive. Generally the green olives are used for pickling.
Some black olives are pickled and pressed for oil.
about February - March, some of the fruit begins to turn from
plain green to purplish black. When some of the olives begin to
change towards black, it will be fairly safe to pick the
green olives for pickling.
the tree is large, place cloth sheets on the ground and strip
the fruit from the tree with your hands or with a rake with suitably
spaced prongs. Collect the fruit from the sheet, remove odd stems
and leaves and rinse olives in clean water in a bucket.
the olives on a clean stone surface or cutting board and bruise
them with another stone or hammer. Alternatively prick several
times with a fork, or make three slits in the skin of each olive
with a small serrated knife while turning the fruit between
the thumb and index finger. This bruising, pricking or cutting
will allow the water and salt to penetrate the fruit thereby drawing
out the bitterness and also preserving it. This will also
do away with the need to use a caustic soda solution as used in
commercial processing of olives.
them immediately into a bucket of clean water in which one half
cup of coarse or cooking salt has been dissolved into every
ten cups of water. A clean plate can be placed on top to keep
the olives submerged. All olives must be under the liquid.
Pour the liquid away each day and replace with fresh salt
water. Repeat this washing process for about 12 days for green
olives and about 10 days for black (ripe) olives. The best test
is to bite an olive. When the bitterness has nearly gone, the
olives are ready for the final salting. As you can see, this simple
recipe involves the disposal of salty rinse water into the environment.
If you decide to commercially pickle olives, there are other recipes
that require a longer pickling time but do not result in salty
off and measure the last lot of water so you will know the volume
of salt brine that will be required. Measure that quantity
of fresh, warm water into a pan and dissolve the salt, this
time at the rate of 1 cup of salt to 10 cups of water. Bring
the salt water preserving mixture to the boil and allow to cool.
Place olives in bottles and then pour the salt water brine over
them until the fruit is completely submerged. Top up the bottles
with up to one centimetre of olive oil to stop air getting
to the fruit and seal the lids on. No further preparation
is required and the bottled olives will store for at least 12
months in a cool cupboard.
you are ready eat your olives, pour out the strong preserving
solution and fill the jar with clean, cool water. Leave
in the refrigerator for 24 hours and taste them. If they are still
too salty for your liking, then refill the bottle with a fresh
lot of water and return to the refrigerator for a further 24 hours.
(The plain water leaches some of the salt back out of the olives).
At this stage you can also add any or all of the following flavourings:
Grated garlic, basil, oregano, chopped onion, red capsicum,
lemon juice and lemon pieces. Especially popular is a combination
of garlic, basil and lemon juice.
sit back and enjoy the unique flavour of your own olives. You
will probably never want to buy chemicalized commercial olives
give any of your olives to you olive eating friends to taste or
you might finish up with more friends than olives! Tell them to
buy themselves a tree - or better still, set up a whole olive
Peasant Style by
Lynne Chatterton, Umbria - Italy
Issue 5, January 1998)
was interested in the section on pickled olives in the last issue.
I've been playing around for some years with different ways of
preserving olives and have discovered some very simple methods
that may be of interest to your readers.
Umbria we have a range of uses for olives besides the oil of which
we are justly proud. We use them when cooking dishes 'al cacciatore'
- the method used by hunters (for instance with wild boar, pigeons,
rabbit and pork) - we use them in bread and in pizzas, and
we eat them on their own.
to be used in various types of casseroles and stews don't require
much work. I have a friend who cooks in one of our best
restaurants here. The restaurant is famous for its pigeon dishes
which have olives as part of the recipe. He simply takes
small black olives directly from the tree and freezes small
quantities in plastic bags and then puts them directly into the
casserole when cooking begins. I've tried this and it works very
neighbour (a woman of 80 years), takes fresh black olives and
packs them into one litre lidded jars with rock salt and
leaves them for a couple of months, then rinses them off and uses
them straight away in cooked dishes and also for eating with prosciutto
or salad. This is another simple yet effective preparation.
have a Tunisian friend who is a mine of information about traditional
products there and he showed me how to preserve olives Tunisian
peasant style. You need a shallow tray with sides, two pieces
of strong reasonably fine wire netting and several heavy stones.
The olives are spread out on the netting (or plastic open weave
shelf) which is suspended over a shallow tray. The fruit is
interspersed with coarse rock salt and branches of fresh rosemary.
The top piece of netting is put on and the whole package is weighted
down with heavy stones. The olives are put outside (sheltered
from rain) and left for about three weeks. At the end of
this time juice from the olive should have leached out into the
tray. If not, leave them until it has. Rinse the olives, pack
them in jars, cover with either a salt solution or with
olive oil. Add some rosemary twigs, black pepper, orange
and lemon peel, a clove of garlic and put on the lid and
leave until they are needed. I used 2 pieces of rigid netting
30 x 20 cm and it worked very well.
picked up a tip from Maggie Beer's Book (Maggie's Orchard) that
is quite useful. Like most cooks I am always left with part jars
of olives I've used for bread or pizza, or half dishes of
olives I've put out for nibbles. What to do with them? I
keep a glazed terracotta lidded container in the kitchen and put
all these olives in there with oil, a dash of wine vinegar, and
some weak saline. As long as the olives stay under this
mixture they keep very well and when I want to use some, I use
a small sieve to get them out and add herbs or spices as I want.
By the way, crushed Coriander seeds go very well with olives.
year I'm using the Greek and Italian method I've used in the past
for initial preserving. I picked some large green olives, and
the usual medium sized black olives. I do between 2 to 3 kgs of
each. With both lots I used a sharp knife to cut across on one
side. I then put them into fresh water in a large bowl so
that the water is well above them and also between them. I left
the green olives for a couple of weeks and the black olives a
week or so longer. I changed the water every two days.
the end of the fortnight I began to add a bit of rock salt because,
although I've never had olives go off in this process, we had
a bit of warm weather and I was being prudent. At the end of this
process I put the green olives into a strong solution of
brine - about 1 cup of coarse rock salt to 8 cups of water - in
a 3kg Kilner jar, and put a half inch of olive oil on top
before sealing. These are now in my cool, dark pantry and will
stay there for about six months before I begin to use them.
black olives (which took longer to lose their harsh bitterness),
have been rinsed and packed into the jar with the same saline
solution as above plus 150mls of malt vinegar (I couldn't
get this here so have used some white wine vinegar), and some
rosemary, some black peppercorns, and topped the lot with
half an inch of olive oil before sealing and storing in the pantry.
neighbour here tells me that she never adds aromatics to her olives
until the night before she wants to eat as antipasto. Then she
takes them from the storage jars in which they live and puts them
in a solution of oil, weak saline and a little vinegar, and adds
lemon and orange peel, rosemary, garlic, chilli, coriander
seed, black pepper, alone or in combination, and soaks them
overnight. She takes them out about and hour before using them
and serves them in small dishes. I can guarantee they are
here are also just dried outside in the fresh air and then salted
and stored in jars without any liquid or oil at all. They are
taken out and rinsed and used just as they are. The same thing
is done with tomatoes. Strings of tomatoes hang from every contadino
household at the end of summer. Onions and garlic are also dried
outdoors and keep very well because of it.
my experience, the critical thing is to leave the olives in their
brine or brine mix for as long as possible before using
them. Whatever method you use to process them, the flavour
needs about six months to become acceptable for eating.
I've known people forget they have stored olives in dark places
in a saline solution for a couple of years and then found
to their surprise that they are delicious. Salt seemed to be a
common means of leaching out the bitterness but once that
is done a combination or salt, vinegar, and oil (all traditional
preservatives) can be mixed or used alone to preserve the fruit.
Alternatively drying alone is a perfectly acceptable way
of preserving olives.
has to remember that olive preservation has been a tradition in
peasant societies where complicated methods, fancy utensils
and sophisticated chemicals are not possible or available.
Today, wooden tubs, and terracotta storage pots are chic and not
easily obtainable in anglo-saxon countries (although I can get
them easily and cheaply here), but a large crockery bowl and glass
preserving jars are, salt and vinegar are cheap and handy, and
oil is always available, so one can simply adapt the peasant
methods to one's kitchen.
don't grow large quantities of table olives here in Umbria so
all our recipes are for olives we take from our existing trees
- Frantoio, Leccino, Dolce Agogia, Moraiolo, and, in our
case, some very old and unnamed varieties that we inherited.
We have planted some Spanish and Greek table varieties but to
date they've had little fruit as we suffered from severe frosts
and hail for their first two years of growth. I've found
our oil olives quite good for both eating and cooking. -
Lynne Chatterton - Umbria, Italy."
and Olives! by
Hill has very kindly sent us this 'environmentally friendly' pickling
last issue's pickling recipe article, you might be interested
in the following green table olive recipe adapted from "L'Olivier
et la prÃ©paration des olives en Provence: recettes
familiales" by Max Lambert:
Crush and sift a quantity of new wood ash; the weight of the ash
should be equal to the weight of the olives to be prepared.
The olives should be freshly picked, clean and undamaged.
Make a fairly liquid paste by pouring boiling water on the ash.
Cover and allow to cool completely.
Carefully stir in the olives to coat them with the ash paste.
Gently stir the olives once daily for 5 to 7 days.
Towards the end of the week, cut several olives lengthwise; the
'dÃ©samÃ©risation' ["de-bitter-isation"] is
complete when the fruit has darkened to about 1mm from the stone.
Rinse the olives clean [dispose of the ash paste and contaminated
water thoughtfully] and submerge them in clean water (avoiding
contact with the air); the water should be changed every
4 or so hours for the first day, then daily for 3 or 4 more
days. This process is finished when the water remains clear and
has no or little rusty discoloration. [At this stage you should
also taste the fruit: although the flavour will be rather
crude, the bitterness should have all but disappeared.]
Preserve in sterile jar(s) in a saline solution or vinegar mixture
as in the usual recipes, adding aromatic herbs, garlic,
lemon pieces to taste and with a 5mm layer of olive oil.
concentration of the preservative/saline solution in point 7 should
be sufficient to partially float an egg or a small potato. Personally
I err on the generous side with the salt (thinking that the olives
are doing me so much good that the body can probably tolerate
a bit more salt!). Depending on the aromatics, I've usually
added about 10% vinegar. An Italian contact also taught
me the trick of keeping the olives submerged by placing a 'wreath'
of wild fennel stalks under the lid.
unusual method but with a sound explanation! Wood ash is about
as alkaline as the usual soda/lye recipes and this neutralises
the oleopicrine. The advantage of this "alkaline" bath
is that, done properly, it preserves the integrity ie the
flavour, firmness and colour of the fruit. The advantage of this
method is that it 'appears' to be a bit more environmentally friendly
than using caustic or washing soda. There is still the problem
of disposing of the strongly alkaline paste, but it seems
to be less environmentally disastrous than some other methods.
- Craig Hill"