Top | Anita Iaconangelo — Hungry in Italy

How to Cure Green Olives

(post, Anita Iaconangelo)

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My attempts at curing green olives have not always been successful.  The methods that I had heard about from farmers in Italy involved putting the olives in a salt water brine – though the amount of salt varied wildly – or washing the olives daily for months, and paying the ensuing water bill. In fact, after throwing out my third batch of ghastly smelling soggy olives that I was too afraid to taste,  I decided to give up on curing green olives. 

Then a neighbor showed me an easy way to cure olives that does not require a long brining process, or checking on them on a daily basis and constant water baths. This inspired me to try again. 

Though this recipe is easy, it does take time for the olives to finish curing before they are edible, but they can be put away on a shelf and forgotten about for a couple of months.  

Here’s how to cure green olives:  

1 ½ lbs. (680 grams) fresh green olives
1 carrot, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
1 qt (1 liter) white wine vinegar
1 TB (1 soup spoon) sea salt
½ cup (120 ml) water
Olive oil to cover

Wash and dry the olives, which should be firm and healthy.  It is okay if some of the olives have ripened to the partially black stage and they have a purplish blush.  In Sicily, we call these “black and white olives” (even though they are purple and green!)

With a sharp knife, make 4 incisions lengthwise on each olive, spacing the incisions evenly apart- don’t worry, no one is going to measure.

Place the olives with their incisions in a non-reactive bowl with the finely chopped carrot and celery.  Add the salt, water, and enough vinegar to cover the olives.  (If you have a larger amount of olives than this recipe, increase the water and salt accordingly.)  Mix well and cover with a paper napkin. 

Stir the contents of the bowl once or twice a day.  After 4 days, the olives should have darkened to a fairly uniform dark green color, and become soft (but not mushy.)  If they are still hard, wait another day.  

Drain the olive/vinegar mixture in a colander.  Make sure that you drain the mixture very well-wait a few minutes and toss the olives in the colander to get rid of excess liquid.

Put the drained olive mixture in a clean storage jar (1 ½ – 2 qt or 1 ½ to 2 liters) and cover the olive mixture with good olive oil.  Make sure the oil covers the olives so that they are completely submerged.  The olives should not rise above the oil or they will spoil.

Now comes the hard part – waiting.  Place the jar of olives in a cool dark place and let them rest for at least 2 months before tasting.  The olives should have a pleasantly acidic taste from the vinegar, which has been balanced by the oil.