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Preserving Olives (curing olives)  RSS feed

 
Don Smith
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Hi All,

I thought I would share my story with Olives so far and seek some advice on where to go from here. I have a beautiful Kalamata tree at home that my wife has pruned into a feature for our backyard. We have had it for 5 or 6 years now and I believe it was 3 years old when we bought it. It crops well each year now and I have attempted for several years to cure olives from this tree, finally striking success this year.

My first attempts were to cure in water and brine following instructions from the internet. I tried this two or three times and they were all dismal failures. I found the time frames in the recipes were not remotely correct, and my olives at the end of a process lasting several months were still completely bitter and unpalatable.

Following this I tried with Lye, but I left them in too long. I think this was due to my previous experiences, I thought I would err on the side of longer rather than shorter. Ultimately the olives lost all their colour and became very soft. They didn’t have any bitterness though which was a win. So this year, I used lye again but tried the olives every day until I was happy they weren’t bitter. I used 2 teaspoons of food grade lye per liter of water and changed it each day. Typically the water was jet black after each soaking, an encouraging sign that something was happening. After 3 or 4 days of this the olives were cured. I then soaked them in water for 3 days, changing every day, and then salted them in a brine of 220grams salt in a liter of water. This brine had about a half cup of white vinegar in it too. After just 12 hours the olives were salty, acetic and incredibly yum. I think they are just about perfect – although my wife would like a touch less salt. Overall though, im very happy with these olives.

Now, I have access to large quantities of Kalamatas from a farm (uncured) and I would like to try a side by side comparison of several different cures. I would like to try a water cure, a brine cure and a dry cure (packed in salt). Im open to any recipes basically – so long as they are proven to work. So if you have a recipe that you know works, I would love to hear it. Im going to get these olives in the next couple of weeks and then I will start.

Don
 
David Livingston
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I am looking forward to hearing about how you get on . I am thinking of planting an olive tree in a sheltered spot and who knows one day we may get olives
David
 
Don Smith
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Hi David,

I have attached some photos of the Kalamatas that I cured here, and i'll post again with some pics of another batch I am doing at the moment - with Lecinos. The Lecinos come from my mums house. I live in Canberra which has a supposed mediterannean climate - no snow but heavy frosts in winter and hot dry summers. Olives thrive here. We have four trees, but the Kalamata is easily the best. Its planted in a raised bed and has no competition from other trees. The other varieties (two manzanillo and one lecino) are in a different spot of the yard and arent grwing anywhere near as quickly.

Are you in France? Whats the climate like where you are?

Brendan
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Don Smith
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Lecinos. I am going to start brining these today. They were much riper than my Kalamatas were, and as a result have gone quite soft in the lye cure (lye is only reccomended for green olives). I will report back on how they taste in a few days.

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Cassie Langstraat
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Sort of off topic, but what climate do olive trees do best in? I have always wanted one but not sure where they grow best. I LOVE green olives and kalamatas!
 
David Livingston
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I live in the Loire Vally . So its not quite medditerainian . Some Frost a little snow and gets to about 30 ish in summer

David
 
Rebecca Norman
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How do olives get all oily as when you buy them? Is additional olive added at the end, after the curing?

I ask, because I collect capers and caperberries here. The caperberries are quite a lot like olives. I cure (ferment) them in salt and pack in vinegar, and some with garlic and pepper, and they come out quite a lot like olives, but the oily quality would make them that much yummier.
 
Don Smith
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Re best climate to grow them in. I think they are pretty forgiving. They can tolerate heat, cold and dry conditions. I dont think they would like a north.american winter (with months of snow) or the tropics but everything else would be a chance.

Rw oil coating. That happens in the optional marinating stage. After cure and salting. You mix oil with flavorings and store olives in this.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Don Smith wrote:Re best climate to grow them in. I think they are pretty forgiving. They can tolerate heat, cold and dry conditions. I dont think they would like a north.american winter (with months of snow) or the tropics but everything else would be a chance.



Thanks Don! I mean I know you can grow pretty much anything in California, but I just wanted to make sure.
 
Don Smith
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Hi Cassie,

I was writing from my phone on the weekend so here is a more considered reply regarding climate. I have only been to California on holidays (I live in Australia) but I would suspect large parts of California would be perfect for olives (like Napa valley). Im not sure how they would go down south where its super dry, but I think they would still be pretty good down there. It’s the snow which kills the tree – they are very good at tolerating dry and hot spells.

I believe that a certain amount of ‘chilling’ is required for the tree to set fruit…which explains why they don’t do well in the tropics. I was also reading up on Lecinos on the weekend and noticed that they are purported to be the most cold tolerant variety of olive and can indeed survive regular snow falls – but they are unique in this regard. Where abouts in California are you?

P.S I just finished eating a punnet of those Lecinos I pictured above. I marinated them in oil, cracked pepper, garlic and fresh tabasco chillis – they are outstanding. They have a stronger olive flavour than the Kalamatas, although they are not quite as firm (but still have a good texture). Very happy with them.

Don

P.S the riper lecinos were quite soft after curing in the lye, however I let them air dry for two days before brining them for two days and they firmed up heaps. They have a great texture now.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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I live in the north bay. San rafael. So they would probably do fine. I do live in a suburban aread though and have a huge redwood tree in my backyard that some dummy planted and so now most all of my backyard is shaded for most of the day. You are making me drool with all the talk about the lecinos! They sound so good.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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I just found this awesome article about planting olive trees in pots! It is apparently totally possible! That is awesome.

How to grow an olive tree in a container!
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Hey olive people. Just checking back in with you. I was just poking around on groworganic.com and found this stuff about olive trees and it reminded me of our discussion on this thread. These guys apparently can send you whichever kind of tree you want in case you can't find the ones you are looking for in your area. Pretty cool I'd say.

Growing Olives!
 
Cassie Langstraat
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welp, it's that time of year again! olive harvesting!

my friend and I harvested all the olives off her tree in her backyard here in sonoma county, CA. then we just put them in a very simple brine, and will refresh them with a stronger brine in a week and then let em sit for 3 months. hopefully they turn out!







 
Wendy Howard
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I'm in the middle of olive harvest here in Portugal too. It's the Galega variety that grows here. Most will be going to the lagar to be turned into oil but I'll preserving some for eating this year as well. This is how I cure mine. This batch, which was done in 2010, was only finished this year. So the olives kept for 5 years. The last lot were every bit as good as the first. Before eating them, I soak them in a couple of changes of fresh water for 24 hours to remove some of the salt, then put them in olive oil with pared lemon and orange peel, garlic and rosemary.

This year I'm also trying some according to this recipe.

I'm thinking some of Don Smith's initial problems with his Kalamatas could have been that most brine cure recipes are for olives half the size of Kalamatas so times would probably need to be doubled (or thereabouts) to allow the brine to get to work in the heart of the fruit.
 
Larraine Brandt
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The University of California Davis has an excellent guide to processing olives--and it's FREE!!! Here is a link to it: http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8267.pdf

I have done lye processing of green olives which have turned out fabulous! (Before I started processing olives, my favorites were Kalamata Style olives. After processing the green olives with lye and then a salt brine, they easily became my favorites. Even my husband eats them by the bowlful.)

I have also processed black olives in the Kalamata Style. They are very good.

I have also thrown some of the black olives into salt to dry them out. I wasn't really following any instructions for this, but I can't say the dried olives are anything to brag about.

The UC Davis instructions are very helpful and there are instructions for making all manner of olives.

Hope that helps.
 
Frank Troy
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Interesting to see all of the different methods. I'm also in Portugal, and curing olives from the extreme north, almost on the border with Galicia (Minho is the region). Wendy, I think my variety is also Galega: they're small, oval-shaped fruits, and very dark in color when completely ripe. I took the advice of a friend and mixed it with various Portuguese recipes I found on the net. I only harvested maybe two kilos, as this is my first year (and I only have one olive tree!), but I divided them. I should note that I harvested in mid-October, so my olives were a mix of green to black and anywhere in between. I didn't separate by color/ripeness, and I just rinsed them in water. I think perhaps the most important rule (at least judging from what the Portuguese have told me) is to use either well water or spring water (i.e. not chlorinated).

With one portion, I left them in water in a wine cellar in glass jars, and will check on them monthly; they'll supposedly be ready in about 6 (!) months. According to my friend, this is the most "traditional" way, and as with many crops, one spends the summer consuming last year's crop. He did his olives this way last year, and I can attest that they were excellent. I didn't seal the jars that they're in, because mine were releasing some gas (CO2?), and I didn't want the jars to explode or the lids to pop off.

With the second portion, I'm changing the water every day, and usually it looks like diluted cranberry juice in color when I dump it out. I've tasted these periodically, and after about 15 days, they're definitely still bitter, but are becoming palatable. I hope that they'll be ready after about a week more.

About 1 week after starting that process, I divided the second portion as follows: I'm maintaining the same process with one bucket.
With a second bucket, I'm changing the water daily, but with salt (I usually eyeball it, about 2 teaspoons of salt per 750 ml of water).
With a third bucket, I put them into glass jars in a brine solution (90g salt, 100 ml apple cider vinegar, 1L water) with spices (peppercorn, lemon slices, coriander seeds, thyme, whole garlic cloves), screwing the lids tight. In the space at the top, I put about a finger's worth of olive oil, to keep them from contact w/ air, and stored them in the back of my cabinet in the kitchen (sadly, no cool room available!). I'll probably open one of these jars in about 2 weeks to a month to see how they're doing.

I didn't try a salt cure this year, maybe next year! Great salt is so abundant and cheap here that it would definitely be easy to try.

I have heard of two tricks to greatly reduce curing time while only using water: one either hits each olive with a wooden hammer or makes several indentations with a knife along the surface. This allows the liquid to penetrate more fully and leech out the bitterness more quickly. The drawback is that it greatly compromises the texture of the olive, and they don't keep as long. If you want olives for next week, and you're going to consume them all in a few days, I think this is the way to go.

If I remember, I'll have to report back in a few weeks when I feel they're ready. Maybe I'll post pics too if I figure it out. This year saw many firsts for me. I also harvested my chestnuts and walnuts for the first time!
 
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