Preserving Olives

June 13, 2011 § 11 Comments

We live in one of the old Greek and Italian neighbourhoods of Melbourne. One of those suburbs that every now and again sport concrete lawns dotted with olive and lemon trees. A very particular aesthetic that I myself am not particularly partial to but nevertheless, I appreciate the mini suburban farms even though embedded in a cement landscape of which I can only imagine is a good way of keeping out the weeds.  I am lucky enough to enjoy the advice of an old greek man who sometimes happens by when I’m in the front yard. He leans over the fence, a subtle aroma of cigarettes, commenting on the progress of our orange tree and the vegies in the garden. I enjoy the aged and wisened advice, it is the stuff I cherish most.

So it is at this time of year that trees are heavy with black fruit and the markets and grocers are brimming with plump and round olives.

I have never pickled olives before, and from a little research, have learned there is more than one way of going about it. Jim Massoto gives a wonderful step by step set of instructions and advice which you can find here. However his process takes 20 days in which you soak the olives in briny water that you change every day.

We decided, to go for a rather simpler option that a friend let us in on after he was given the advice from an olive seller at Preston Markets. With this method you may end up with olives that are slightly more bitter, but after tasting our friends and considering this process was much nicer on the environment as less salt would be poured down the drains, we were convinced. Also, it’s no where near as much hassle.

How to preserve olives

First, you want to make sure you pickle your olives when they are as fresh as you can get them as they are quick to spoil. Pick out any bruised or spoiled olives as they have an off flavour.

Sterilize a bunch of big jars. Wash the olives thoroughly and place in the jars. Cover with briny water (100 g salt dissolved per 1 litre water). Then pour a layer of olive oil on the top of the water and seal tightly. The fuller the better, as the less air inside the jar, the less likely they will contaminate. Leave in a dark cool place for about 3 – 4 months or until they develop a rich olive flavour. A layer of scum will develop at the top of the jar, however this is said to be helpful in taking away the bitterness of the olives.

And we wait, fingers crossed.


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§ 11 Responses to Preserving Olives

  • that is so cool! i live in a climate that is totally not conducive to growing olives, but i love them to death. i am so jealous of you and your cleverness.

  • jilly says:

    so inspired i netted one of our olive trees today. they never get black, because the birdies hook in as soon as they get soft. This year i’m crossing my fingers for 25 kilos of green and black, ready for our pizza oven to be (this summer!>>>???!)

  • gayle says:

    Hey Sophie, how are you you ? You sound like you are keeping busy and your olives look beautiful in their jars …….good luck with them; I expect to see pizzas and tapenade on your blog very soon. My brother pickles his own olives but they are big, fat green ones, no idea what he does but they taste delicious.

  • Hello!! Lovely to hear from you. Mmm big green olives sound very good. Hope your keeping cosy and warm. xx

  • Nancy says:

    I recently bought a large can of sliced black olives to “recan” them by home canning. Unfortunately, I cannot find any recipe/processing directions to tell me how to do it. Does anyone have suggestions? I have a pressure canner as well as the large water bath canner. Thanks!


    • Hello Nancy,
      Good question and I can’t say I have ever done what you are trying to do but Stephanie Alexander in her book ‘the cooks companion‘ suggests marinating ‘drained black olives in olive oil and add toasted cumin seeds and tiny dice of raw fennel or celery, or thyme leaves, freshly chopped parsley and tiny dice of preserved lemon’.
      Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

    • Susan says:

      Nancy I see your post was in 2011. It is now 5 years later and have you found any time to can the olives? I too want to do it and can find nothing.

  • cooktocure says:

    We had olive groves where I grew up overseas, and pickled our own olives too. Mom always threw in a few garlic cloves, a lemon wedge and branch of fresh thyme in each jar… and in a few others 3 -4 chili peppers! Thank you for the memory jog! Cheers! ~ Hoda

  • tae says:

    Look good? Would you sell one jar? 🙂

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