Two years ago I found fresh green olives at the Chico Farmers Market. Curious, I asked the farmer how difficult it would be to home-cure them. He assured me that water curing and brining is simple, if somewhat time-consuming, but well worth the wait. I purchased 10 pounds, prepared them, and the first time we opened a jar of finished olives I wished I had made 20 pounds.
So this year I bought 20 pounds of Barouni olives from Chaffin Family Orchards. They shipped me the box on Tuesday, it arrived on Friday, and on Saturday a friend helped me crack them in preparation for the water-cure.
Olives picked off the tree contain a very bitter compound called oleuropine and they must be “cured” before they are seasoned and brined. There are several methods for curing olives, including water, salt brine and lye solution.
Water curing does not change the flavor of the olives as much as other curing methods, so I prefer that technique. Green ripe Barouni olives are large, meaty and are grown specifically for home preparation.
The first step is to sort and wash the olives, removing any damaged or bruised fruit. Then each olive is “cracked” to expose the pit so that the bitter flavor can be leached out. Next, they are placed in a glass or food-grade plastic container and submerged in water. The water is then drained and replaced daily for a week to 10 days, depending on the level of bitterness you prefer.
After curing, the olives are placed in a “finish brine” of water, salt, vinegar and seasonings. Finally, they are bottled and left to rest for 4 or 5 days and can be kept for up to a year in the refrigerator. The longer they remain refrigerated the more flavor they absorb.
Here is the recipe I use to make Mediterranean Cracked Olives. I’ll update this post when my olives are finished!