Produce Superstars: What I’m Learning About Curing Olives at Home

Fresh, ripe coratina olives from Knoll Farms, Brentwood, CA.

I think I fell in love with olives and olive trees years ago, when I spent a winter in Positano, an ancient town on the unforgettably beautiful Amalfi Coast of southern Italy. In that region, olive trees, with their silvery-green leaves and  gnarly trunks, are as natural a part of the landscape as they are deeply embedded in the culture. Although much of California is well suited to olives, and they’ve been here since Spanish missionaries arrived more than 200 years ago, they’ve always been a relatively minor crop. That’s slowly changing as more and more groves are being planted with a wider variety of olives, and growers are pressing ever greater quantities of quality oil. One thing that strikes me as sad however, is how many trees planted as ornamentals produce beautiful olives that just go to waste.

Maybe people think they’re too much trouble to pick, but given how delicious, how expensive, and how healthy good quality olives are, why not make use of some of those olives? To be edible, they must first be cured, as you know if you’ve ever tried to eat an olive from the tree (bitter does not begin to describe the taste). Curing is a process which can can take weeks, even months–but it isn’t complicated. I’m a novice when it comes to curing olives, and I didn’t pick the two pounds of olives for my trial run. Instead, I bought the freshly-picked, bio-dynamically grown coratina olives from the Knoll Farms people at the San Francisco Ferry Farmer’s Market. As with anything homemade, you can customize the olives to your taste, adding garlic, herbs, spices–whatever you like. There are several well-tested methods for curing olives–read about the method I’m using after the jump (and check back later for updates on how my olives are doing)…

———–

Coratina olives in salt brine, day one.

Continue reading