Home-cured Olives: Moroccan Style

Home-cured olives – seasoned with chilies, lemon and North African spices – have finally made their way into our kitchen, and happily so.   Not too long ago, we received a beautiful box of freshly harvested, green-ripe barouni olives from Chaffin Family Orchards out of California.     Since then we’ve patiently waited and waited for our olives to lose their soapy bitterness and gain a saltiness spiked by hot peppers, lemon and garlic.

Olives are among our favorite foods.   They enjoy a rich heritage having been cultivated across the middle east and Mediterranean region for thousands of years.   Though olive oil has always been prized both for grooming and culinary uses, my love rests with the well-spiced and wonderfully salty fruit.   Olives are rich in mono-unsaturated fat, vitamin E and polyphenols which account for the fruit’s strong, bitter flavor.   A good soaking in brine and spices tempers the olive’s natural bitterness.

In preparing my batch of olives at home, I chose to water cure them – as it’s a relatively faster approach to olive curing and, as you can imagine, I was eager to see the results of my first adventures in olive curing.   Other methods of curing olives at home include treating the fruit with lye, brining them whole and curing them in salt.   I imagine, next season, we’ll try a different method of curing olives.   Water curing is simple and remarkably easy; just clean the olives, discarding any marred fruit, and pound them with a mallet or rolling pin until the fruit is slightly bruised.   Over a period of days or even weeks, depending on how much bitterness you prefer, soak them in clean water, changing it frequently.   You’ll notice that the olives will release some of their oils and that oil will rise to the top of the water every day.   Follow this by a heavily spiced brine, and you have home-cured olives.

We’re looking forward to serving our olives at the Thanksgiving table and throughout the year as appetizers or in lovely, rustic tapenades.   Some we seasoned with provincial herbs, others with Greek oregano and garlic, but these olives we seasoned with a savory array of North African spices.   I can’t wait to pair them with a Moroccan-spiced Roast Chicken or on fresh bread smeared with authentic labneh and a slice of preserved lemon.  Take a look at my other tutorial for preparing home-cured olives.

cracked olives: moroccan style

By Jenny Published: November 9, 2009

    Fresh olives are sold in bulk at very affordable prices. While this recipe only makes use of a ½ gallon of olives, take advantage of larger quantities and spice them differently in order to vary the flavors in your kitchen. Incidentally, the water-curing method for preparing olives results in more oleuropein – an antioxidant thought to boost the immune system – in the end product which is, in part, why we chose this method.

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 gallon Fresh Green-ripe Olives
    • 1 whole Preserved Lemon OR 1 Whole Lemon, quartered
    • 1 small Bulb Garlic (Peeled)
    • 3 -4 Fresh Red Chili Peppers
    • 1 Bay Leaf
    • 1 tsp Peppercorns
    • 1 Thin Slice Fresh Turmeric, OR ¼ Teaspoon Ground Turmeric (julienned)
    • 1 thin Slice Fresh Ginger (julienned)
    • 1/2 tsp Coriander Seeds
    • 6 tbsp Unrefined Salt
    • 1/4e cup Raw Vinegar

    Instructions

    1. Rinse clean and pick over the fresh olives, discarding any obviously marred fruit. Discard any leaves or stems.
    2. Gently hit each olive with a rolling pin in order to bruise it. The olives may crack, and they’ll most likely spit out some foamy white juice. Eventually your fingertips will turn black as the olive’s juice oxidize.
    3. Once all the olives have been cracked, pour them into a container and fill it with filtered water. Drain, rinse and fill the olive container with water again twice a day for at least a week, and up to a month. We cured ours in this manner for two weeks. You may taste them for bitterness throughout the process.
    4. Once the olives have lost much of their bitterness – they’ll still retain quite a bit – drain and rinse them a final time.
    5. Place them into a ½-gallon mason jar with spices, garlic, lemon and chilies.
    6. Pour raw vinegar over the olives.
    7. In a separate container, prepare a brine of 6 tablespoons unrefined sea salt to 1/2 gallon filtered water and pour over the olives and spices.
    8. Shake well to combine ingredients.
    9. Allow the mixture to ferment for at least ten days or until done to your liking.

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    What people are saying

    1. says

      I was SO glad to see this post! About a year ago we planted an olive tree in our front garden. Not only is it a lovely landscape tree in our Southern California garden, but I hope to eventually harvest olives for my family’s use. Right now the tree is young and getting established in it’s new site, so it’s putting out new growth, not fruit.

    2. Marly says

      Jenny,
      I’m so envious. I love olives, too! Any chance of sending me a taste? :) You must be proud of all your hard work to be finally eating your rewards. Congratulations!

    3. Jenny says

      Marly -

      I’ll be happy to send you a batch – we have several gallons of the Moroccan style olives.  Just be aware that my kitchen is NOT a commercial kitchen. Email me your address, and I’ll send some off if you’re really interested!

      Take Care -

      Jenny

      • Cheryl says

        I’m so happy I ran across your olive receipe! The ones I’ve read use lye! so it’s nice to see one that’s natural and not so difficult. Thanks! Oh and if you happen to have any olives left, I loved to try them. :)

        Cheers

    4. says

      YAY! I was so looking forward to this post, Jenny! Your olives look fabulous! I love all the flavors you used.

      On another note, I had a good time, reading your blog as one of the Nominees in the Foodbuzz Food Blogger Awards this past weekend! :)

    5. says

      so I am curing mine according to the sicilian method – in vinegar brine and they were looking great but when I went to check on them today they are getting black in spots! Did that happen to yours? I have some in the harsch so no air at all and some are in a stone crock submerged but not as effectively. Derp!

    6. Nancy says

      So… how did the olvies turn out? I have a Barouni olive tree and would like to cure the olives this year. My tree has given a good yield of fruit the last two years and I’ve had to throw them out due to lack of finding anyone to cure them. I don’t a cook so this will be a chanllenge for me, i.e. kitchen terminology. Where in California are you located? Thanks for listenting.

    7. Tina~ says

      Jenny,
      Yummy! These look incredible. I remember reading a post about the organically grown olives last fall, but when we tried to order them they were out of stock.
      When is olive season? I’d love to order some.

      Do you know how commercial olives fall on the food safety issue? I don’t really trust the curing process…sound of lye in my food concerns me. I wouldn’t mind paying for safe cured olives if I knew which ones were actually safe to feed my family. Perhaps a topic for discussion?

      Thanks, I love your blog :-)

    8. Linda says

      I cure olives every year, and it’s one of the simplest and most rewarding of the ‘projects’ I have on the go.

      I’m so glad you had a great experience. It’s simple, like you say, anyone can do it!

      Cheers, and thank you for sharing great food!

    9. says

      I’m trying to get to that yummy looking recipe for Red Chili Pork with the Pineapple Salsa, and I keep getting kicked into this olive recipe….not that the olives don’t look amazing too! :)

    10. Amy says

      I just picked about 10 pounds of small black olives, I have no idea what kind they are. I’d like to cure them, but am not sure if water curing is appropriate for black-ripe olives.

      Thanks for any advice!

      • Brian says

        I’ve had luck dry curing them! I got two 5 gallon buckets, drilled holes in the bottom of one and nested it inside the the other. I got a lot of salt (form cotsco) and filled the upper bucket with it. I put my ripe olives in and mixed them into the salt. Every day I mixed them by hand, but it would probably not matter if you missed a few days. The salt draws out the bitterness over time. The salt will get damp like snow and the excess will drip to the bottom bucket. This process take a while but it yields some really strong tasting olives that are shelf stable, although I keep mine in the fridge so they’ll last for a really long time! I also just leave them in the salt until I need them. When I do, I just fish them out and rinse them and throw them in whatever I’m cooking. I find them a bit too strong to eat out-of -hand but my wife loves them. I’m going to try them again this year, but maybe try putting a small slit in the side of a few to see if that speeds the process or leaches out more of the bitterness.

    11. says

      Hi, Jenny! First, I love your blog. I just discovered it last week. Wow! I have learned A LOT! I also took your recent webinar. AWESOME! Second, in the recipe for your home-cured cracked olives, can I use 1/4 C of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar or is that not good? I have Raw ACV but no other type of raw vinegar in the house right now. I could go out a buy some but was wondering if the Raw ACV would work just as well. Oh, I would love to taste these olives! Sounds delicious! Third (and last), if you ever send out samples, let me know. I’d be interested in getting a sample! Thank you so much! Blessings to you and your family. :)

      • Maggie says

        Hi Patti J, I just discover this amazing site,I have the same question about tha Raw ACV,so can you tell me if is ok to use it because that’s is what I have Braggs ACV(Raw ) also when you let it ferment you have to tight the cap of the Jar or just leave it loose,thanks for your response

      • Brilana says

        Jenny, I just ordered my olives from Chaffin Orchards and have the same questions as Patti and Maggie. First time curing olives and am pretty excited to add this to my repertoire.

    12. says

      So glad to find your site with the luscious Moroccan recipe! We are in the process of curing some small olives we picked in Northern Spain. Not sure how they will turn out! The brine didn’t seem to release bitterness but we did forget to cut or pound the olives! Ah well, will try again with the water method after cutting them.

    13. Wendy Waldron says

      Seriously you’d send olives to marly? I would love to have you send some to me! Wendy Waldron 741 E. Dolphin Ave. Ridgecrest, ca 93555

    14. Tessa says

      I ordered olives from Chaffin Family Orchards and followed the recipe. I rinsed them for 2 weeks and were less bitter when I tasted them. Now, after almost 2 weeks in the brine, they are very bitter. Are they going to get better with time? They are not edible at this point. Please help!

    15. says

      Hi, I have a question! I’m seeing your blog for the first time and I started water-curing a little over 6 weeks ago. I don’t know what kind of olives they are — they’re from my neighbor’s tree and they have no idea what they are. They’re tiny and brown to black. I didn’t crush them because someone else told me I didn’t need to. However, 6+ weeks later and some are getting a little soft and coming apart and the olives still have bitterness. Not unpleasant really, but there is a bitterness. I noticed you say they will retain a bitterness and I’m so happy to see this!!! So, perhaps they’re ready to go into salt water now? I would like to ultimately just put them in olive oil. Thanks and looking forward to your reply! :-)

      • Brian says

        Some Olive growers told me to only dry cure ripe olives and use brines for green. I don’t know if that’s a “rule” or just a tradition. Good luck!

    16. Bobbi says

      Hi Jenny,

      A quick question about the final brining process–do you keep the jar sealed while they ferment or leave the lid on loosely to allow the gasses to escape? Also, how do you store them once they are done?

      Bobbi

    17. Aria says

      During the time the olives are soaking in filtered water and during the time they are left to ferment, are they to be left out at room temperature or refrigerated?

    18. Diane says

      In the recipe you say to place a 1/2 gallon of olives into a 1/2 gallon container with spices than mix a 1/2 gallon of brine and pour it over the olives. Did you mean 2 half-gallon containers? I have a feeling I’m being dense and missing something? Thanks for this recipe! I am through the soaking and my taste buds are watering for the final delights!

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