03 Oct

Cure Your Own Olives (without lye)

By Nancy Gaifyllia,

With the exception of Throubes (an olive from the island of Thassos that’s picked when fully mature), olives straight off the tree are hard and bitter. Curing is what removes the bitterness. Once cured, olives can be stored with flavorings (lemon, oregano, garlic, and others), but the first step is the curing.

Ancient Greeks cured olives by “dry curing” with salt, and over the centuries, other methods were developed.

If you have olive trees and are interested in home-curing, there are several methods used in Greek homes that you can try. There is a method using lye, but it’s not recommended for home use. I asked four friends for different methods, and I got five suggestions:

Water Curing “Smashed” or “Cracked” Olives (recommended for large green olives)
Wash olives. With stone or mallet, crack the meat of the olive, taking care not to bruise the pit. Put the olives in a pan and cover with cold water for 6-8 days, changing the water twice a day, morning and evening, until the bitterness is gone (taste to test). When ready, fill the pan with brine * (about 1 part sea salt to 10 parts water) and lemon juice (about 1 part lemon juice to 10 parts water), transfer to jars if desired, and refrigerate for several hours before eating. **

Brine Curing (recommended for black olives)
Wash olives. With a sharp knife, make a cut in the meat of the olive (top to bottom) without cutting the pit. In a pan, soak the olives in brine (1 part salt to 10 parts water). Make sure the olives are submerged (use something to weight them down) and cover. Cure the olives for 3 weeks, shaking the pan each day and changing the brine each week, then taste for bitterness (they could take up to 5-6 weeks depending on the olives). When they taste the way you want, place in jars with brine (1 part sea salt to 10 parts water), add 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and top with a layer of olive oil.

Dry (Salt) Curing (recommended for large black olives)
Outdoors, in a basket, burlap bag, or wooden box lined with burlap (that allows air to circulate), layer olives with coarse sea salt (you’ll need about 1 pound of salt for every 2 pounds of olives). Leave the olives outside (with plastic underneath to catch the juices that drain) for 3-4 weeks, shaking daily and adding a little more salt every 2-3 days. Taste for bitterness (rinsing the olive first). When no longer bitter, you can either shake off excess salt and keep them that way, or shake off the excess salt and dip them quickly in boiling water to get rid of the salt. They can be marinated for a few days in olive oil to regain plumpness (this type of curing will shrivel them), or just coated well with olive oil (using your hands) before eating.

Dry (Salt) Curing (recommended for small black olives)
In glass jars, alternate layers of olives with coarse salt. Every day for 3 weeks, shake well and add more salt to absorb the juices. Test for bitterness (rinsing the olive first). Continue to cure if bitterness remains, otherwise, add warm water to cover and 4 tablespoons of good quality red wine vinegar, and top with a layer of olive oil. They will be ready to eat after 4-5 days.

Oil Curing
Cover in olive oil and leave them alone for several months. Test for taste.

Tips About Brine:
* * The water/salt ratio is perfect when a raw egg floats in it.
* ** For cracked olives, when they’re ready to eat, transfer to a brine that’s less salty to keep for long periods.

[Source] Click here

7 Responses to “Cure Your Own Olives (without lye)”

  1. joe19403 Says:

    Been looking at many different recipes and each one has a different amount of salt for the brine solution. Did read about using a raw egg for testing the brine for the correct amount. When are the spices added? With the brine.



  2. Olives101 Says:

    Hi Joe,

    Take a look at this post :


  3. Peter Says:

    I was hoping you may be able to help with a problem that has occurred whilst pickling my olives. I tried the soak them in water (changed daily) method and after 4 days i noticed a lot of “bruising”. So I put them into a brine solution and over night they ALL went spotty. My fear is that this is a bacteria which has infected all the olives. I can’t find any pictures of what olives look like when they are infected. Can you help please??

  4. KEITH Says:


  5. Darrel Aten Says:

    I’ve been planting olive trees around Texas for several years and have some moderate success.

    I would like to propagate new plants and have tried several methods for taking cuttings, but none have worked for me. Do you know of an efficient and predictable way of starting new plans? I was even thinking of trying seeds, but the seed is so thick it might take forever for the outer shell to rot.

    Any thoughts?

  6. lisa Says:

    Peter- in my limited experience, what you are calling bruising is exactly what should be happening. I was curing green olives and they started out a bright, lime green color. By the end of 10 days, they turned into an “olive” green…. any spots that were still bright green were still bitter, and any of the olive colored spots were no longer bitter.

  7. Culinary Delight & DIY: Cure Your Own Olives | Oh Lovely Lolo Says:

    […] http://www.olives101.com/2007/10/03/cure-your-own-olives-without-lye/, http://blog.ameliaoil.com/?m=200710,  […]

Leave a Reply