Admittedly I am a preserving nut.
It's so satisfying to put something up in natural form to save for a later date. And what wonder when you open a jar, months later, on a rainy day to find summer all packaged in pears and syrup, or pickles from the garden.
What joy then to find that even in the winter months we can preserve natures bounty in the form of olives.
Just finishing up their seasonal burst, olive trees right now in Sonoma County are flush with juicy black bundles. But be warned, if you haven't yet mistakenly tasted an olive off the tree, don't start now; they are truly disgusting fresh. Olives, as it turns out, are meant for preserving via salt curing, brining or lye washing, removing their sharp bitter flavor and revealing that satiny feeling we all love and know as olive oil.
After scouring the internet for methods I chose to dry salt cure my black (purple) olives (all the same olives by the way, just more ripe than their green counterparts from the same tree).
Packed in kosher salt and suspended in a pillow case, the olives over the course of 3 weeks have shriveled and withered into tight grumpy looking bits (2nd picture). But once rinsed, my oh my, they are delicious. The trick being that after a wash and dry they must be packed in olive oil immediately to inhibit mold. I added a few slices of lemon rind as well and stored them away in the fridge, just to be safe.
(*I kept the pillow case propped on an inverted tupperware in a larger container to let the juices drain. You can also hang the pillow case form a tree in a drier area. Replenish salt as needed).
Now, green olives!
There is always the modern lye option, but considering that I have small children around the house and the fact that lye not properly handled can burn you, I decided this would be a no go. Just not worth it. Not to mention that all of the recipes using lye required lots of rinsing cycles to get rid of any toxicity. Hummm...? Yeah, not for me.
Harnessing my ancient Greek I chose to brine my greener olives. Into a large container went roughly 3 gallons of green (ish) olives covered with cool water. Next as much kosher salt as it takes to make all the olives float. This mixture I have drained and replaced every 5 days for the last 6 weeks. As of yet the olives are not ready, but they are considerably less stringent when tasted - so we're getting there.
Whew, all of this said, I have heard lots of misery about lost olive crops during preserving. I am pleased to share that the dry salt cure works perfectly and the brine looks to be on it's way - with lots of attention to changing the water often. Fingers crossed.
*All of these olives came from a dear family members tree in Fairfax, preserving a little history this year with the olives.