Oil Cured Olives at Home
Last season I made the most wonderful, flavorful, fantastic cured olives I have ever made in my life…. just ask my kids! My father has been oil curing olives for many years and I decided it was time for me to take a crack at it. There are endless ways to cure an olive but the method I will describe yielded a perfect oil cured olive.
OIL CURED OLIVES AT HOME
The curing removes the bitterness and the resulting olive is shriveled and wrinkly and they sort of resemble small prunes. Because of this curing method, they don't need to be stored in any sort of brine. By the way, the description “oil cured” is a bit of a misnomer; these olives are actually salt cured and then packed in oil.
Below is the method I adapted from my father...with a few changes (thanks, Dad).
Here's how I make oil cured olives at home:
1. The olives should be dark purple and ripe - most any olive will do but I prefer an olive that has lots of meat like a Manzanillo, Mission, Sevillano or Barouni. Never use olives that have fallen to the ground as it can promote bacterial growth (not good). Do not use green olives or olives with any green color whatsoever. Pick the olives from the tree and place them in a container being careful not to bruise them, they will be somewhat softer to the touch when black ripe.
2. Remove any leaves or twigs and rinse the olives in a large tub to remove any dust or dirt. Let drain in a colander.
3. Line a milk crate with an old clean bed sheet with plenty of bed sheet hanging over the sides as you will need to tuck in the olives before you start the curing process. If you don’t have a milk crate use a perforated container that will allow for drainage and aeration.
4. Place a layer (about 1/2-inch-thick) of rock salt on the bottom of the of the container then place a 1-inch layer of olives (don’t worry if they are still wet). Repeat this until you have filled the crate. Usually about 8-10 layers should do it. The final top layer must be of rock salt completely covering any exposed olives. If you don’t have that many olives, no worries, just layer as many as you can in the crate.
5. Cover the olives with the excess bed sheet.
6. Place the crate so that it is off the ground to allow for the olives to drain and aerate. I used a couple of bricks. You may want to place a drain tray underneath if you don’t want to stain the floor. You will want of find a place like the corner of your garage to cure the olives. Usually, at least in Arizona, the weather cools down by the time the olives on the trees are black ripe and the garage is the perfect place to cure.
7. Walk away for 90 days. You may notice some drainage but don’t worry the salt is doing its job of curing and dehydrating the olives.
8. The olives will look shriveled and have a leathery consistency.
9. Now you’re ready to pack them. Rinse off the salt and let the olives dry, then tightly pack them in a container and cover add enough oil to coat all the olives. I keep them in the refrigerator to be on the safe side. I have also placed the jars in the freezer and then thawed in the fridge to use. I have kept them for longer than a year in my freezer or my refrigerator.
I serve these in many different ways but my favorite is to remove some from the jar and add some fresh extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic, crushed red chilies, anise seed, dried oregano and salt to taste. Toss and enjoy!
Have you ever tried curing olives at home? Let us know how you cure olives in the comments below!
Written by Perry Rea
Owner, masterblender, olive oil Sommelier at Queen Creek Olive Mill.