Mediterranean-Style Cracked Olives

          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.

Home Cured Olives, Part I

          So you know we actually live in Tunisia where I have heard it is against the law to cut down an olive tree.  I wasn’t planning to anyway, but it definitely indicates an attachment and commitment to the tree.  Of course, we can buy a large variety of commercially-cured olives here, year-around, but I have wondered what would be involved in curing them myself.  You can buy fresh olives this time of year for as little as 1 dinar (about 70 cents) for 1 kg.  so aside from the waste involved in a failed attempt, it’s not an expensive exploration.  I bought 2 kgs. of these beautes yesterday at the market.

Since this process technically falls under the heading of preserving food, I got some good advice so I don’t end up growing  something undesirable, like bacteria.  I figured the University of California, Department of Agriculture and Resources would have this researched.  They have a 26 page e-booklet called Olives:  Safe Methods for Home Pickling.
I wanted to get the very long process started and think more about the brine in a few days so I chose the method for Mediterranean Cracked Olives.  One begins by cracking the olives, but not the pits, with a mallet or rolling pin and submerging them in a water bath, changing the water twice daily,  for at least 10 days or until enough of the bitterness has been removed.

This was a nifty suggestion for keeping the olives submerged.  It is simply a Ziploc bag filled with water.

You can already see the oil floating to the top.  I’ll let you know what I’ve got in 10 days.