A few weeks ago, I began a project of home-curing olives. Step 1 was to crack each one with a meat mallet and then soak them in water, drained daily, until they reached a palatable level of bitterness. Part of the art of olive making, I discovered, is finding the perfect stage at which to stop the water bath. I tasted an olive on day 8 and spat it into the sink. Too bitter, still. Then I tasted one on day 10 and uh oh, it tasted a little watery to me, a little washed out which I read can happen. I quickly drained them at that moment and decided to go ahead with the brine to see what would happen. For approximately 2 kgs. of fresh olives, I used the following formula for the brine:
1 liter of cool water
1/3 cup rock sea salt (or Kosher salt)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Make a solution of these ingredients and pour over olives that have been packed into sterilized containers. It is at this point that you can also add herbs and other seasonings. I added whole garlic cloves, cuttings of fresh rosemary, and pink peppercorns. If lemons were ready yet, I would have added a few bits of those. The olives can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator, for around six months.
I think I’m OK with the washed out issue. Once they were out of water and into a brine, the flavor came back up and they taste really good to me. I’m sure the flavor will continue to develop complexity the longer they marinate in the brine. Next time, I might simply slice each olive rather than smash them. Most of the olives are in tact, but some of them have broken pieces that make my jars look a little bit cloudy. For a first attempt, I’m happy and I also know how these olives were handled and stored so I have confidence in their sanitation.