Olives straight from the tree need to be experienced once in your lifetime, to show you how incredibly bitter they are! The process of curing - or pickling - olives is needed to draw the bitterness away from the olive flesh and make it edible. The process is different for green and black olives as the black ones are on their way to becoming more mature than the green. PS All olives start green and ripen to black or purple.
Large, hard green olives, like Kalamata, take longer in the soaking process to be ready. These methods are listed in order of the fastest to be ready to the slowest. You will also note that the fastest ones need more input from you at the start of the process.
FOR FIRM GREEN OLIVES: Schiacciate (Split)
Crush and de-pip the olives. Using a small bottle with a concave base makes this easier.
Soak in a bucket of water, changing the water daily for up to 14 days, depending on the variety and size of the olive. You can use hot water when changing to speed up the process. Add lemon slices to acidify the water. The olives will change colour from being bright green to more of a brown-green colour.
Once the bitterness has gone (taste them to check), drain the olives, weight them* overnight over a colander to press off even more water, then salt to taste. Dress with condiments such as olive oil, chopped garlic, chopped fresh chilli, dried oregano, fennel seeds etc.
Eat immediately or store in the fridge for a few days.
Variation on the crushed olives
a) After draining the olives, squeeze excess water from them and weight* overnight in a colander as above. Then toss through some white wine vinegar for several hours, then press to drain once again. Dress with olive oil, salt, garlic etc and eat; or store in jars, topped with olive oil, with added condiments.
SIMPLE METHOD (but you’ll need to wait several months for them to be ready)
This works well especially for olives that are semi-coloured
Jam pack the olives into a clean glass jar. Top with boiled 10% brine solution, add a lemon slice to the top and then cover with a layer of olive oil to help keep the air out.
a) Add garlic, chilli, fennel seeds as desired for extra flavouring to the brine solution in the jars.
Make a slit in the black olives. Place olives in a plastic tub, add cooking salt to cover generously. Toss through to coat the olives. Cover with a heavy weight*. Every day, repeat the tossing and weighting* until the olives are shrivelled. Rinse one off to taste for bitterness. If still bitter, continue to soak in the brine that has developed.
Once de-bittered, place the olives in a plastic colander, and put the weight back over the olives. The brine collected should drain from this.
Rinse briefly when they are ready.
Dry excess moisture off the olives in a cooling oven, dehydrator or spread outside in the sun.
When dried, lightly toss with olive oil and store them in vacuum sealed bags; or in zip lock bags in the freezer. Serve dressed in oil, and add other condiments. (Olives done this way have a very intense salty flavour, and are good added to a meat dish, such as a cacciatore-style dish; or gently warmed and served as part of an antipasto platter).