Featured How to cure homegrown green olives naturally

Discussion in 'Food - Cooking, Preserving & Fermentation' started by Mark, Feb 1, 2015.

  1. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Here's a simple recipe to cure green olives. I have mixed and mashed several ways of curing olives into this one rather simple method so I could cure our own olives from our own trees naturally without resorting to the lye method because I don't think using drano is a healthy substance to use for anything we intend to eat!

    Surprisingly, we managed to get about 1 kilo of olives off our trees this season! This is quite remarkable in a subtropical climate and I'm hoping it's a good sign for the future. The variety of olive is primarily Manzanillo, although, there are a few Arbequina both olive varieties do better than most other olives in warmer climates.

    Essentially, the process I'm using is osmosis by submerging the olives in brine so the oleuropein (which is the substance in an olive that makes it too bitter to eat) is drawn out of the olive and into the brine. Here's how I'm doing it:

    Step 1 - Score the olives

    With a paring knife slice the olives the whole way around the centre lengthways down to the stone but without cutting into the stone. Scoring the olives helps with the curing process otherwise olives left whole will take a lot longer to become palatable.

    Step 2 - 1st Brining

    Pack into a pickling jar and cover the olives in a brine with a ratio of 1 x tablespoon of sea salt per 250 mils (1 x cup) of natural spring water. This process will also generate some lacto fermentation so you probably will see some foaming and a slight buildup of pressure in the jar if it has a sealed lid.

    Leave the jar in a cool place out of the sun for about 7 - 10 days. I like to place the jar on a plate or on top of some absorbent kitchen paper because when the jar is full they tend to leak out a little if it slightly ferments.

    You could only stack the jar 3/4 full of olives and then weigh them down with something to ensure they stay under the brine but I just prefer to fully stack the jar leaving little headspace.

    Step 3 - Final Brining

    After 7 - 10 days, strain the olives to remove all the old brine and refill with new brine (same ratio of salt to water)

    Leave to sit for about 5 or 6 weeks and then taste test to see if the olives are ready to eat and have lost their bitterness. If the olives are still not edible then strain and fill with another batch of brine and leave for another week or two until they taste good.

    If the olives taste fine, then either leave in the brine or remove the olives and marinate in oil and herbs to your liking - that's it!

    Note: Since I have just started my first batch of olives I can't say with certainty that I will have an outstanding success using the above method but I will keep this thread updated on the progress.

    Please feel free to add your own olive curing recipe or tips here in this discussion and ask questions.

    Final Update: You can keep reading the whole discussion below if you wish, but, at the end of the day this batch of olives took 16 weeks to cure and 3 x changes of fresh brine. The end result was FANTASTIC so yes this method of curing naturally does work - it just takes a bit of time. You can see the final outcome here: URL="http://www.selfsufficientculture.co...megrown-green-olives-naturally.675/#post-6779"]How to cure homegrown green olives naturally[/URL]
    We still have about 250 grams of our cured olives left (stored in the brine) and our trees are flowering again so I'm hoping for an even better season this time.

    curing home grown olives diy with brine sea salt.jpg
    home cured and grown green olives in preserving jar.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
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  2. Nerida Spence

    Nerida Spence Member Premium Member

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    Thanks Mark. We have 3 Manzanillo trees and have not had a great harvest to date. The trees are at least 2 m high. I picked 14 olives today and will attempt to cure them according to your instructions. ;) The old Greek guy at our local markets says we have to pump a lot of water into them over the winter. we are going to trim them back as they are just too rangy and tall and try again.
     
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  3. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Hi Nerida :)

    Is giving extra water over winter better for flowering or olive development once set? I assume it's to help flowering since he recommends plenty of water over winter? I'll give it a try this year!

    Yes, I give mine a good trim each year but I haven't touched the main leader yet because I read somewhere pruning the main central leader of an olive tree can restrict overall growth however I'm not too sure about that... Manzanillo's are a more bushy type tree so they're cool, but I have two Helena olive trees which are getting huge (they must be 6 metres high) and have never developed a single olive yet. I might need to cut these trees right back soon if they don't start becoming productive because there's no use letting a tree crowd out an orchard if it isn't producing fruit IMO.
     
  4. Nerida Spence

    Nerida Spence Member Premium Member

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    He said it was to set the fruit once flowered. it was something like 23 litres a day per tree which we thought was excessive and expensive even with a tank !.We are just going to crop the top out of ours and give them a more rounded look. They are starting to dominate the back garden.
     
  5. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    23 litres per tree does seem like a lot of water. So the extra water the Greek guy recommended is not to produce flowers but more to help fruit development; however, the olive fruits grow slowly for a small produce and olives grow quite well in low rainfall areas so I not sure lots of water would make a big difference.

    Also, there are some olive growers who say too much rain during flowering can damage the flowers and lead too less fruit set so I guess it's a balance the tree wants at flowering time of how much water and when.

    What I would love to find one day is a truly low chill olive tree which produces good sized olives.
     
  6. Nerida Spence

    Nerida Spence Member Premium Member

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    That's what we thought. Plus the fact of the expense of that much water- even our tanks would run dry. We thought that we would water them over this period next year and see( though not that amount). You would need the water to encourage them to flower and set the fruit I presume. Maybe he was dreaming of Greece!
     

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  7. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Good luck with those olives! Mine are due for tasting again soon so I'm keen to see if this method is indeed working.
     
  8. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Here are the olives on the second curing at week 4 you can see the colour change from bright green to olive drab and some brine seepage from the top of the jar (all normal). They are about a week away from tasting to see if the bitterness has gone down to an acceptable level. Personally, I do like a slight bitterness to my olives (I hate "watery" olives) but it's just a matter of tasting them to find the right level for you.

    There is also a few small glass lids in the top to weigh the olives down ensuring they are kept under the brine.

    If after this 5 week second curing the olives are still too bitter I will re-brine in fresh brine for another two weeks or so and keep checking.

    olives fermenting curing after 4 weeks.jpg
     
  9. Ken W.

    Ken W. Active Member Premium Member

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    Olives are very drought tolerant but to get a good crop they need water and lots of it. They do however dislike wet feet. An olive grove just down the road has been sitting idle now for about 5 years because they didn't calculate for enough water. The early years they had enough but with drought and the trees maturing the supply ran out and they have not fruited for 4 years and very little on them this year. It's a shame to see such wasted opportunity. The original owner went broke and the new owner just doesn't care.
     
  10. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    So are you saying to stimulate flowering/fruiting the trees need plenty of water or once they have flowered they need plenty of water to develop or both?

    BTW, I tried one of the olives today (4 days away from 5 weeks in brine) and it was edible - actually, it was very nice! However, it did still taste a little bitter and because I have a pretty exotic palate ( I like hot chillies etc) I'm not quite sure if they are ready for the average person to eat. I like an olive to have a slight bitterness and the one I tasted today made me feel like having another but I restrained myself. :)

    Anyway, I'll leave them cure for the full 5 weeks and then make a decision whether to remove them from the brine and spice them up or give them a few more weeks in a new brine solution.
     
  11. Ken W.

    Ken W. Active Member Premium Member

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    My mouth is watering as I write this and think about your pickled olives. Your process is basically how we cured the olives at the nearby grove except we used large bins holding approx 250kg of olives so scoring each olive was out of the question. The process took around 3 months and 2 brine changes.

    Anyway, to answer your question - it's a bit of both but leaning towards stimulating flowering/fruiting. I'll try to explain.

    The fruiting cycle of olives (and probably most fruit trees) is dependent upon the culture of the trees for up to the preceding 2 years. Basically, they need constant moisture to the depth of the roots (so the older the tree - maturity at 10 years- the deeper the moisture) to avoid any water stress. Regular deep watering throughout the year achieves this. The trees have two growth stages in the year - heavy growth in spring/early summer (what we'd call the spring flush) and a lighter growth period in autumn. Heavy watering during late winter stimulates the spring flush which encourages flower setting but this can only be achieved if the trees have received adequate water during summer to avoid stress and leaf drop. Watering after fruit set promotes the development of plump fruit which is desirable for table olives. It also ensures the cycle continues for the next crop. Olives produced for oil are usually water deprived prior to harvest to maximize the oil/water ratio - less water content means less weight to transport to processors - but this sometimes jeopardizes the following crop because the moisture cycle has been broken.

    I hope that helps but if not fire some questions back.
     
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  12. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    250kg :faint: They must have lasted for some time hey - we can't get enough olives here but at $19 - $23 per kg they are pretty expensive to buy.

    Well that's very interesting and I didn't realise olives were so water hungry! I'll remember to keep the water up this winter once the rainy season is over to ensure our bigger trees don't dry out and see if this improves our chances of a fair harvest.

    So your bulk olive curing took 12 weeks due to them not being scored? That's not too long really. Were the bins you used those standard (food safe) brewing ones about 20 or 30 kgs?
     
  13. Ken W.

    Ken W. Active Member Premium Member

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    The grove grew/pickled them commercially for sale at markets. About 1 tonne table olives per year and some of those made into Tapenade. The rest of the crop - 8 tonne in the last year of production - were pressed for oil. The curing bins were food grade IBC's with the tops cut off and hinged as lids. Drainage of the brine was through the tap with a coarse screen on the inside to stop the olives escaping. I don't recall the salt ratio but it was bagfuls with the quantity reduced each change.

    As I said earlier the new owner has done nothing with the grove for 5 years. Thankfully, the council maintains (not well mind you) a public grove which anyone can harvest by hand. One year someone came in with a mechanical harvester and took the lot so locals play watchdog now. The quality of the fruit is not great but free's free.

    Here's a link to more info on water requirements... http://www.oliveaustralia.com.au/Olifax_Topics/Water_Requirements/water_requirements.html
     
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  14. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Update on olives curing:

    It's now nearly 14 weeks and all up I've changed the brine 3 times in my jar of olives.

    The olives are close to eating and I can actually eat them no problem but in all honesty they still are not quite ready yet due to an obvious lingering of bitterness, which probably would be unpleasant to the average palate.

    I will give them another fresh brining today and leave the olives for another 2 weeks before tasting...
     
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  15. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    It has been a week since the last change of brine and my wife and I have taste tested today. We both agree the olives are ready and taste delicious as is so once infused with some local herbs and maybe some lemon plus chillies they'll be amazing!

    I'm really wrapped making olives at home is so simple to do and only just takes time. Plus I like the fact you can regulate the bitterness to your taste as I prefer my olives with a tiny "bitter" hit and despise those watery olives you sometimes get prepackaged in jars.

    Bottom line, jar curing olives in brine takes about 15 weeks and is totally worth the wait!
     
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  16. Ken W.

    Ken W. Active Member Premium Member

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    Plus the extra satisfaction of having grown and produced the end product right there in your own backyard. Can't put a price on that.
     
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  17. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Here's some of the same olives infused with lemon, coriander, and chillies fresh out of the garden. The taste was sensational and moreish with a crunchy texture. We left the olives in the final curing brine until we were ready to mix them with other flavour enhancers and this worked well - it's a perfect way to store them actually.

    home made cured olives with coriander chilli and lemon.jpg
     
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  18. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Here's a video on how to cure olives in a jar :)
     
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  19. Jnel

    Jnel Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I'm up to Stage 3, and enjoyed reading all the comments above. All helps !
     
  20. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Have you had a taste yet and sampled that bitter oleuropean hit? :D
     
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