How to cure olives Italian style
If you’ve ever been game enough to bite into and taste an olive freshly plucked from an olive tree (ugh so bitter!) you would definitely understand why the curing process is so essential in making your olives palatable.
It may take time, patience and a bit of elbow grease to cure your olives, but the salty flavour and soft plump texture of the fruit will be so worth the effort when you enjoy them in your recipes or on their own as a snack.
Wondering how to get started and how to cure olives Italian style? There are many different techniques (the Greeks have even been known to use pillowcases) and various ingredients for curing olives. Our approach draws on traditional Italian and Greek fermentation methods using salt water and vinegar, but keeps the legwork to a minimum, the ingredient list simple and still produces very tasty results (even if we do say so ourselves).
Here are our Mount Zero, tips and secrets for curing olives so you can nail your next homegrown harvest and enjoy your brine-cured olives for months to come.
How to cure olives
What you’ll need
2x plastic containers – 10 L food-grade plastic buckets or tubs with lids
5kg olives (green or black olives)
1kg salt (we use Pink Lake Salt)
Medium to large glass jars
Step 1. Wash your plastic containers with warm soapy water.
Step 2. Prepare your brine solution by mixing your salt and water using a 1:10 ratio in one of your buckets. For 10L of water, add 1kg of salt.
Step 3. Place your olives in your other bucket and add your brine solution so that it completely covers the olives.
Pro tip: Gently place a plate on top of the olives so that the olives remain totally submerged in the brine during the curing process.
Step 4. Add your vinegar to the olives and brine and loosely place the container lid over the bucket (but do not completely seal to allow the carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation).
Step 5. Check on the olives every month or so and top up with your salty brine solution if needed. You don’t need to remove the mould that grows on the surface, just ensure your olives sit below the surface to ensure they don’t go mouldy themselves.
Step 6. Taste the olives after eight weeks or so, if they are still too bitter leave them for a while longer and taste again in a few weeks. Typically, the larger your olives are the longer the curing process will take. Green olives will also need more time than black.
Don’t want to wait? Order some delectable brine-cured organic kalamata olives, the Mount Zero team has already done all the hard work for you.
Step 7. Once the olives taste to your liking, drain the olives, dispose of the brine, rinse the olives with fresh water and mix up a new brine solution containing 500 g of salt in 10 L of water.
Step 8. Sterilise your jars and lids. First, wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water. Then place them (still wet) on a baking tray. Put them in the oven for 15 minutes at 180°C. Carefully remove the jars from the oven and allow them to completely cool before placing your brine and olives inside.
Step 9. Divide your fresh brine solution and olives amongst your jars. If you like, finish off the mixture with a dash of vinegar.
Pro tip: Before sealing the jar, add about 1cm of extra virgin olive oil to coat the surface of the brine to stop any air from getting to your olives or the brine from going mouldy. Then tightly seal the jars with your sterilised lids.
Bonus tips for curing olives
Here are the Mount Zero team’s top tips to make sure your home-cured olives are a success:
- You can cure both green and black varieties of olives. We recommend using just one type per batch as different types and levels of ripeness will have slightly different curing times.
- If you’re wondering when is best to harvest your olives for optimum flavour from your own olive trees, we suggest picking them when the first olives just start to change colour from green to black, which typically occurs in February, March or April in cooler states of Australia.
- From season to season, you might like to experiment with different ingredients. To add subtle nuances of flavour during or after the curing process, try adding sliced celery, fennel seeds, lemon slices, garlic cloves or fresh chilis into your brine mixture.
- For extra flavour add your favourite herbs and spices when serving up your olives. Such as fresh oregano, chilli flakes, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or fennel seeds along with a generous slurp of premium extra virgin olive oil.
- You can store your olives in brine in a cool dark dry place (the bottom of the pantry is perfect) for at least 12 months unopened. After opening, store your olives in the fridge.
Common mistakes when curing olives
Avoid these blunders when curing your olives:
- Use fresh firm olives. Make sure your olives aren’t mushy, soft or bruised. You want the fruit to feel hard to the touch and if you’re using green olives they should be green all over. And it’s best if they’ve been gently hand picked straight from the olive tree.
- When storing your olives, always make sure there is enough brine to cover the olives completely inside the jar. Otherwise, the olives will turn brown and can taste mouldy, yucko!
- Make sure the water you use to make your brine mixture is of drinking quality (potable) for best results.
Picking and DIY curing your own homegrown olives is a very satisfying process where you literally get to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Perfectly preserved olives just take a little patience, practice and know-how to get your first harvest underway.
If you’d like to skip the need to source your own raw olives, months of curing time and taste testing, you can always order some of our delicious and naturally cured Mount Zero brine-cured olives that are ready to eat right away, glossy salty deliciousness guaranteed. While you're at it, you can shop the entire Mount Zero range including our award-winning extra virgin olive oil!