Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Home Brined Olives

***I'm about to delve into territory that is controversial for some home cannners/fermenters, so as a disclaimer, do your research. Do not use only my info as a guide, and if it smells/ looks funny, don't eat it. ***

Home Brined Olives

     Olives are not in season right now. They usually become ripe enough to pick for brining in September through December, at least where I currently live in Italy. When they start to ripen, they turn from green, to purple, to a deep black. Blotched green to purple is the ripeness you want to use in this recipe, because it's not quite ready to become oil(deep black and smooshy), but its not so bitter as to be inedible (after being processed). This last season I must have picked 20 pounds. It was wayyyy more than I needed, but we will definitely be eating olives through the next season.
     I made these olives 7 months ago. So why did I wait this long to create this blog post? Because I wanted to be sure. I did a lot of reading, asked for a lot of advice, and did quite a bit of experimenting. This is the culmination of my knowledge, and I wanted to keep it somewhere that is more permanent than a notebook.
     It's really not hard to make olives, it just takes a lot of work. After this process, I can see why next to nobody in the United States knows how to do this, or bothers to take the time. Growing up in California, I remember huge olive trees lining residential streets, all of the black fruit discarded on the ground, and year after year, trees begging to be harvested. I love having olive trees in my yard, and I can't imagine moving to my next residence without a tree or two.
     This type of olive is VERY different than the kind you get in the store. Most canned olives are cured in Lye, or canned with Vinegar. These are purely done in Salt Water. it gives them a very unique taste and mouth feel. I did do an experiment with curing them in salt, or
adding vinegar to the water, but I'll describe that in the notes at the end of the post.
This batch was destined half for brined, and half for salt cured.

  • An amount of partially ripe olives (green and half green/purple is best)
  • 10 cups of water (try not to use tap)
  • 1/2 cup of Salt (use anything OTHER than table salt, I used Sea Salt)
  1. Clean and wash the olives. Now comes one of the hard parts- cut a slit lengthwise in each olive. Why? because this enables them to cure in months, not years.
  2. Combine the salt and the water on the stove, heat only until the water turns clear while stirring.
  3. In a bowl large enough to hold all of the olives, combine the cut olives and the brine. Make sure to pour in enough brine to cover the olives. Find a plate or lid that is smaller than the bowl, that will keep the olives under the brine, and put a weight on top of the lid/plate. You need to make sure that the olives remain submerged in the brine. Whatever brine you don't use, save. Trust me you'll be needing it.
  4. Leave the bowl somewhere that it won't be disturbed, I just left mine on the counter. But you want it still in eye sight, because .  . .
  5. Change out the brine daily, using the 10 cups to 1/2 cup of salt (or if your batch is smaller, 5 cups to 1/4 cup of salt). The brine will be incredibly bitter, as it works to remove the bitterness from the olives.
  6. Change out the brine for around 2 weeks, or until the brine is no longer bitter.
  7. At this point you're going to want to find jars and lids to store the olives in. This is up to you, I used a lot of recycled tomato sauce jars, the ones here in Italy have a great cone shaped top part to really stuff the olives into. Wash the jars and lids well.
  8. This time, make the brine stronger- 10 cups of water to 1 cup of Salt. I know, I went through A TON of salt.
  9. Stuff the olives into the jars, making sure that they won't float.
  10. Pour the Strong Brine into the jars, up to just about the top. shake the jars a bit to release the air bubbles.
  11. This is the controversial part to some fermenters. . . . Add olive oil to the very top of the jar. Fill it allll the way up, so that it almost wants to spill over. make sure no olives are poking up through this barrier. Screw on the lid. This will seal the jar of olives, and help keep them for the long months ahead. 7 months later, I'm still opening and enjoying jars that were put up this way.
  12. Wait at least 2 months to enjoy. Make sure you set them on a plate or something during the wait, as they might spill a little during that time.
  13. Enjoy! When I open a jar, I pour the contents into a different jar, and store it in the fridge. A great combo that I came up with for a party was- brined olives, a little bit of olive oil, lime zest, chopped sage, rosemary, and chives, a little bit of chili powder, and a little bit of garlic salt. Everyone loved it!
Waiting patiently for two weeks, rinsing every day.

Now here's the notes:
  • I experimented with adding flavorings after the initial rinsings, but with the 2 month sit. I wish I hadn't. Although the soy sauce flavored ones, the garlic flavored ones were ok, they have an under flavor that I don't like. Much better to do the 2 months plain, then add your flavorings.
  • I did a batch of Olives 'sotto sale' or under salt. This is what you do with olives that are very ripe. Not my favorite, but please message me if you would like to know my musings on it.
  • I also did a batch of lacto-fermented olives. I added a couple of tablespoons of homemade pickle juice to the initial stage, and only changed the brine every week or so. But I did this for a month instead of for only 2 weeks. These olives were ready a lot sooner, and also had an amazing flavor. I will definitely be recreating this experiment.
  • I also did a batch, the same way as above, except adding regular white vinegar to a small portion and rice wine vinegar to another. I didn't like the end taste compared to the straight brine, but if you like vinegary things you might like it. I also kept this batch mostly in the fridge.
  • I'm very interested in questions or criticism of my way, please give me a comment or send me a message!
I still have at least 5 more jars of Olives!

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