Water Cured Green Olives


Kelly Rossiter Photo
Kelly Rossiter

This, dear reader, is what 16 pounds of fresh olives looks like. I realize that I'm not actually preserving my own local harvest here, given that the Southern Ontario climate does not allow really for the growing of olive trees. But I live in a predominantly Italian and Portuguese neighbourhood and people here make their own wine, can their own tomatoes, cure their own meats and yes, cure their own olives.

Watching people checking over those boxes of California olives in the grocery store, I was overcome with olive envy and decided then and there that I had to have one of them. Then I had to clear it with my green conscience. I started thinking that shipping the fresh olives would be more efficient than shipping the equivalent number of pounds already processed and packed in jars. I already have glass jars that will be used many, many times over without ever having to be recycled like store bought olive jars. I can even use old sealer tops because they will be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of months, as opposed to vacuum sealed in a water bath. Not only that I know that I am preserving these olives in a time honoured way without resorting to additional chemicals to prolong their shelf life.

The biggest question in all of this is, where the heck am I going to store the number of jars that 16 pounds of olives will fill? My refrigerator isn't particularly small, but we are already having "condiment issues" because of the number of open jars of jams and relishes etc. that we are working our way through. I have a wonderful new cold room where my husband has set up some locally made shelves produced from 100% recycled materials to hold all my preserves, but I'm afraid that until January it won't really be cold enough to keep the olives properly. I guess friends and neighbours will reap the benefits of the California olive bounty in November.

There is no question that this is labour intensive. You have to change the water every day for 10 days before you even think about getting them ready to eat. For me, that means hauling 4 very big, heavy bowls up to the kitchen from the basement, draining them and then hauling them back down again, refilled with water.Then once they are brined, you have to let them sit for another 2 weeks before you can taste them. The recipe sounds like you should brine them in the big bowl, but I am going to put the olives in jars and then put the brine over them and then top it off with the olive oil. Given the amount I have, I am also going to experiment a bit with what I put into the jars. My son can suck up a serious number of olives in no time at all, and he loves hot spices, so I will make some jars with hot pepper flakes instead of using the oregano for them all.

I didn't smash the olives as it suggests in the recipe, because I read in a number of places that so much of the flesh is bruised. I decided to take a sharp paring knife and simply make one slice length-ways. Hopefully that will be sufficient.

This recipe is from About.com via the website Cake and Commerce.


5 pounds green mature olives
1‑1/2 quarts water
3 Tablespoons salt
2 lemons, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
2 cups white wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2 Tablespoons cumin seeds, crushed in a mortar
Olive oil


  1. Crack the flesh of the olives with a rolling pin, or by hitting each one individually with a hammer. Rinse with cold water. Place them in a stoneware, earthenware, glass, or porcelain jar and cover with cold water. Weight them with a piece of wood or a plastic bag filled with water (to keep the olives submerged) and keep them in a dark, cool place for ten days, changing the water every day.
  2. Boil the water and dissolve the salt in it. Empty the liquid from the jar in which the olives have been soaking; rinse the olives in cold water and cover the olives with the salt brine. (see above) Mix in the lemons, oregano, wine vinegar, garlic, and cumin. Float enough olive oil on top to cover the surface. Store in a cool place at least two weeks. Store in a cool, dark place. The olives keep quite well for at least two months.
This recipe appears in: Snacks
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