Making your own brine-cured olives feels like such an accomplishment. Tending to your olives, refreshing the water daily, tasting and testing… Once they’re finished the taste will far outweigh the effort spent on the brining. If you have an olive tree (or a few) on your property you’ll know how abundantly they can produce. Unless you’re planning on pressing for oil, in which case you’ll usually need 50kg minimum, there’s not much else to do with olives except for curing them.
The process for brine-curing takes patience but the effort involved is not difficult. Start by picking your olives.
Once you have your selection, if you have a real difference in colours, sort the green ones away from the black ones. This is because the green ones are less mature and will need a little longer to brine and lose their bitterness.
Once your olives are sorted, wash them well and remove any really damaged olives. A little bird pecked is fine, but if they are starting to rot then take those out. The same goes for any dry and shrivelled looking olives. You want them as plump and damaged free as possible. Use a sharp knife to cut a little slit into each olive. This will allow the water to enter the olive help remove the bitterness. Alternatively, you can carefully ‘crush’ your olives with a heavy object such as a meat tenderiser or a flat stone. Crush them enough to just break the skin but not to completely flatten the olives.
In a container or jar, soak your prepped olives in plain water for 5-15 days, changing and refreshing the water daily. Make sure your olives are completely submerged under the water. For black and ripe olives 5-10 days will be fine and for green 10-15 days is preferable. You can taste the olives after they have been soaking to test the bitterness. If it is still very bitter, soak the olives for longer.
After soaking in water, it is time to put your olives in brine. You can make a simple brine solution using a ratio of 1 parts salt to 10 parts water. Use an unprocessed salt such as rock salt or sea salt, not with any added iodine as this can affect the end taste of the olives. Boiling your brine solution (and then leaving to cool) before adding to your olives can reduce the chance of any moulds of bad bacteria forming on your olives.
Cover your olives with the brine in an airtight container, making sure the olives are again completely submerged. Let them sit in this brine for about a month, changing the brine fortnightly. You can taste them after a month to check the taste and bitterness. If they are still too bitter, keep soaking them in a fresh brine batch for another 1-2 weeks until you are happy.
Now it is time to jar up your olives in sterilised preserving jars. Make a fresh batch of salt brine and for every 2 cups brine, add in 1/4 cup of your favourite vinegar (I use my homemade apple cider vinegar). Add in any other flavourings you like such as lemon, lime, garlic, oregano, rosemary, chilli. Cover the olives with the brine and flavourings and let them sit for a week to infuse the newly added flavours before sampling.
Olives store well in a sealed jar for up to a year in a cool dark place. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within a month.