20 11 2008
Italian Olives

Italian Olives

My friend Laura recently asked me what to do with all the olives she’s got lying around and it made me think back to a book that a colleague I met at the CIA, Lynn Alley, wrote, “Lost Arts: A Celebration of Culinary Traditions.”  Lynn says that there are many opinions regarding olive curing but three main methods are out there.  Dry Salt Curing, Lye Curing and Brining.

The Dry Salt Cure

These are those olives that you find that are wrinkly, smaller and black.  Lynn says to use a fabric bag with a drawstring top, add the same weight of noniodized table salt as the amount of olives you have.  Pour them into the bag covering them with salt evenly and then completely with more salt.  Hang the bag where the liquid can drain and mix weekly for four weeks or until they are not bitter.  Rinse and let dry then pack in oil.

Lye Cured

Lye is highly caustic and can burn you, but it removes the bitter glucosides from the olives fast.  Seems weird to me that such a dangerous substance would be used to make food, but…  Lynn suggests letting professionals do this method for canned olives.


Lynn suggests placing the olives in cold water and using a plate to keep them down, change the water daily for ten days.  Then add 1 cup of uniodized salt per gallon of water and brine them for four weeks, changing the solution weekly.  After the inside flesh is brown you can keep them in a weaker brine, with 1/2 cup salt per gallon of water.  It may take 2-3 months for them to be edible, taste to see but don’t eat the mushy ones.  Rinse them well before eating.

I highly recommend getting Lynn’s book as it has great olive recipes, more detailed information about olive curing as well as great chapters on how to make mustard, vinegar, cheese and preserves at home.  Lost Arts: A Celebration of Culinary Traditions, Ten Speed Press, 2000 by Lynn Alley