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.
- ½ 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)
- ½ tsp Coriander Seeds
- 6 tbsp Unrefined Salt
- ¼ cup Raw Vinegar
- Rinse clean and pick over the fresh olives, discarding any obviously marred fruit. Discard any leaves or stems.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once the olives have lost much of their bitterness – they’ll still retain quite a bit – drain and rinse them a final time.
- Place them into a ½-gallon mason jar with spices, garlic, lemon and chilies.
- Pour raw vinegar over the olives.
- In a separate container, prepare a brine of 6 tablespoons unrefined sea salt to ½ gallon filtered water and pour over the olives and spices.
- Shake well to combine ingredients.
- Allow the mixture to ferment for at least ten days or until done to your liking.