Once upon a time I lived in Adelaide where olive trees grow like weeds. Every winter we’d go foraging and preserve a good stash for eating. One year the very awesome Annemarie Brookman from the Food Forest taught me how to dry cure olives and I’ve never looked back. It’s infinitely easier and just as tasty as pickling, in short it’s life changing – here’s how we do it.
- Salt: All recipes we’ve ever seen specify using non-iodized salt, we use coarse rock salt – but I don’t think it actually matters.
- Olives: Only use black, fully ripe olives for this method. For 10kg of olives, you’ll need approximately 5kg of salt.
- A bucket: To put the olives and salt in. We use 10 or 20 litre “food grade” buckets.
Pick your olives! Choose only the blackest and leave the green ones on the tree to ripen or use them for pickling. Give them a good wash in fresh water to get any dirt/bird poo off them.
Get comfy as this step takes a while. You need to break the flesh of each and every olive so it can absorb the salt. If you don’t do this step then it will not work and you’ll cry. Most people recommend using a knife to put a slice in each olive, however we use a fork and prick each olive a few times. This is soooo much quicker than using a knife, plus you can watch a movie at the same time without fear of stabbing yourself.
FYI – your fingers will turn a black/purple colour from the olive juices which will take a few days to fade.
A pricked olive!
Once all your olives are nicely punctured, pack them in a jar or bucket with salt. We add the olives gradually, mixing in the salt as we go to ensure it’s spread evenly. We then put a thicker layer on top knowing that it will sink down with gravity.
Once you’ve done this, either pop a lid on top or some cheesecloth to keep the bugs out and leave it to start doing its thing
Check on your olives every few days, they should be literally swimming in their own liquid within one week as seen below. This is a good sign. Strain the liquid off and keep going for another two’ish weeks.
The excess liquid we strained off our olives after one week in salt.
Even after only one week you’ll see the olives have shrivelled up considerably, if you want to, you can stat taste testing them now – just wash one in fresh water and taste away to see how they’re evolving.
Once the liquid has been strained off, make sure the original salt is mixed in evenly and let it continue to do its thing. Some people add in fresh salt at this stage if some of the salt was lost in the straining process.
After three -four weeks your olives should be ready. To test, wash some in fresh water and taste them. Once you’re happy with the taste, rinse the whole lot in fresh water. From here you can either let them dry on some cloth towels and store in a jar or, put them in jars of olive oil with rosemary and garlic – the choice is yours. They’ll taste awesome either way.
What finished dry cured olives look like. Image from here
That’s it folks, you’ll never be scared of preserving olives again!