November 21, 2009

Salt- Cured Olives

The olive harvest began a little early this year, at the end of October, many people wait till November 3- something about numbers. When the olives are harvested for oil, some of them are still green, giving the oil here a peppery flavor.

As we get farther into the season the olives ripen to black and that is when I start to check out the trees near my house. This year, we have new neighbors who harvest what was an abbandoned olive grove below my house, so this year I had to buy my olives to cure.
I bought my olives from Francesca, this year I got 2 kilo's, when I see everyone is done with the harvest around me, will go and gather what's left on the trees and make more.

I learned several techniques from the vendors in the San Lorenzo- Mercato Centrale on olives, many of which are cured using caustic soda, did that once and not worth the trouble.The other classic techinique is a salt-water brine, which takes a long time and also gives you an olive you can buy in a store.

What truly caught my fancy was the "dry" salt cure. I adore it and more important my husband loves these olives. Since they are hard to find in shops, it makes them even more precious.

Tuscan Salt- Cured Olives

I layer the ripe black olives in a jar- with coarse sea salt,without additives.
The salt draws out the bitter liquids in the olives which you drain off daily.
When the olives stop giving off liquid they are ready.
It all depends on their size.

Rinse the olives off, removing all the salt.
Dry lightly and then drizzle with olive oil.
This "seals" the olives and prevents them from getting mold.

At this time, if you like, you can also flavor the olives.

Some typical additions would be:

chili pepper flakes
I like to add lemon zest.

It doesn't get any simpler or better than that!

If you don't have sea salt that is inexpensive where you live, use Kosher Salt.
Sea salt here for kitchen use is 60 euro-cents a kilo- 2.2 pounds.

Keep them in a dark place, you don't need to refrigerate.


  1. I will have to try salt-cured olives. Does the variety of olive matter? For how I cure (green) olives in Spain see

  2. Janet- they have a saying, stessa razza -stessa faccia.

    Spain and Italy have tons of recipes in common- olives like that are done down in Sicily, we don't have the big green ones up here in tuscany!

  3. This looks like something I could try here in Seattle, using California olivers---next year, I guess. Any thoughts on which variety of olive I should use for good results, Judy?

  4. Chuck- for these olives i am using the the tuscan olives that are for oil- but I think any black olive can be used.

  5. I have just picked a couple of kilos of black olives today so will definately try this method of curing.
    Just been catching up on your archives...great blog and you are not too far from us.

  6. Angelina3:20 AM

    It's Feb 2010, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. I've just picked 3kg (at least same amount are still on the tree)of green to black olives from my one backyard tree and will try your salt-curing method for the black ones, today. The green ones I thought I'd do in brine. I love to eat the black dried olives with fresh crusty Italian bread, mozzarella, tomato and basil. How about a few slices of fresh mortadella or prosciutto? Oops! forgot the olive oil on the tomatoes. MMmmmmmmm! Angelina

  7. just picked black olives today and will probably do a variation of this recipe. I was told to put them in a white pillow case with plenty of coarse sal. It is then placed under something heavy until all the liquid is drained. Then, like your recipe, the olives are rinsed and stored in olive oil, this will be my first time curing black olives and I hope it works

  8. sarah- yes, you can put them in a pillowcase and let drip!!! but where? outside?
    I was also told I could use pantyhose-- and hang outdoors!
    I prefer to avoid moisture from outdoors and use glass!
    let me know how yours go!
    I am making more this year too- they are my favorite

  9. Anonymous6:50 AM

    I've dry cured using the pillow case outside - all very successful - but once rinsed and coated in olive oil... How long will they last?

  10. they last a long time-- I don't make a huge amount.. so not sure.
    i always finish mine! but have them for months

  11. Anonymous12:59 AM

    I have salt-cured ripe olives, rinsed them and laid them out to dry for a day. Then I rub them with olive oil and put them in zip-lock bags to freeze them in 1/2 lb quantities. Just take them out to thaw and enjoy!

  12. How fun. I am beginning to collect olive trees right away! Wonderful ideas for this next harvest. Cheers, "the lemon lady"

  13. should the jar be air tight while curing or left open to breathe..trying this for the first time with green olives.

  14. Lucy Kelly, London.1:50 PM

    Around 2012 I found mentions in online garden centres of an olive type which could simply be left to dry as preparation, and which didn't need curing. It was black, and self fertile. Now, I can't find it. Does anyone know which type it was, please?