Green Olives

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larry_stewart

Master Chef
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I've probably posted this years ago, but it's that time of year again for me to go through the process of making nasty, bitter, unripe green olives edible. (Keep in mind, I didn't say good, just edible).

Years ago an old Italian acquaintance and I were discussing olive, and he explained the process he uses to cure unripe, green olives. Having never had done this before, I was eagerly listening and writing down the process. Coincidentally, this time of year , my local market carries raw, unripe green olives (only for a few weeks). I grabbed a bunch, and this is the basic process.

Smash each olive enough for it to split open, but not separate from the pit.
For a gallon, use a pound of salt mixed with water , an soak the split open olives for a few weeks ( making sure olives are completely submerged in the brine).
After the few weeks are up, drain and rinse the olive then soak them in plain water over night.
Taste and olive, and if still bitter, repeat the process.
It sometimes has to be done a few times to get rid of the bitter taste.
Once the bitter taste is gone, you can marinate them as you wish.

He never really went into the marinating process he used, and I haven't seen him in years.
I just eat then as is. Not that they are great, just amazed at how you can make something that is practically inedible taste edible.

I think in the past I did have them sit in and herbed vinegar ( maybe with garlic, rosemary , hot peppers ...)

This same guy told me that at the end of the gardening season ( about now), he would take the half ripe tomatoes ( half green/red) and slice them into quarter inch pieces , sprinkle with salt, then top with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Just another way to use up half ripe tomatoes.
 

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I had heard. The ones we get in jars at grocery store are cured using Lye.

Much faster process apparently.

Eric, Austin, Tx.
 
I had heard. The ones we get in jars at grocery store are cured using Lye.

Much faster process apparently.

Eric, Austin, Tx.
I've heard/ read the same thing. Since I don't know what I'm doing, I'm sticking to the easiest, safest method. I would love to go through the process with a pro. Kinda like me with mushrooms, I'd love to go foraging for mushrooms, but only with someone who knows what they're doing.
 
I think it is just great you are doing this. I always wanted to try it but I never see olives in Wisconsin and ordering them from out of state is usually an expensive thing.
On this blog/recipe, he cures olives in lye. What's even more informative is reading the comments under the article, where people run into problems and he answers each of them with good explanations. https://honest-food.net/lye-cured-olives-recipe/

Something to consider in the future.
 
I think it is just great you are doing this. I always wanted to try it but I never see olives in Wisconsin and ordering them from out of state is usually an expensive thing.
On this blog/recipe, he cures olives in lye. What's even more informative is reading the comments under the article, where people run into problems and he answers each of them with good explanations. https://honest-food.net/lye-cured-olives-recipe/

Something to consider in the future.
Ill definitely check it out.
The olives are only available her for a few weeks out of the year ( early fall) so I kind of have a one shot deal . Ive done it this way before , again, my goal is to make them edible. I would love to take it to the next level. Maybe one day!
 
You did bite the bullet, you are brave! I can't wait to hear how it turns out.
 
Reporting back on my progress ion curing green olives with Lye.

First off, I practiced all safety precautions ( as recommended in the few articles I read) to avoid any harm. Safety glasses, rubber gloves and not using aluminum utensils to stir with. Here is the comparison of the two methods ( salt cured vs lye cured).

Shape :
- Salt brined olives needed to be slightly crushed, insides exposed , to allow the salty brine to penetrate the olive
- Lye Brined olives were kept whole. The lye solution is strong enough to penetrate the skin.

Time:
- The salt brined olives definitely take longer to penetrate the olive, even with the inner flesh exposed. I did it for a week + ( with several brine changes), and the bitterness was mostly, but not completely eliminated. In between brine changes, they had to be soaked in water. The alternating brine/ water / brine/ water... is what creates the osmotic effect to remove the bitterness ( and salt).
- The lye brined took 2 days ( with 3 brine changes). One article said you can do it in just one ( depending on the size of the olives). My olives were large, and I hate bitterness, so I did 2 rounds. The first 24 hours, the next 2, 12 hours each. Zero bitterness. I may try just 2 rounds next time.

De-Brining ( if thats even a word):
- Both salt and lye needed to be soaked in water for a few days after brining to remove the salt/ lye. The salt only had to be done long enough until the salt level was acceptable. The lye had to be done longer to get rid of the lye. Obviously I didn't want to mess with it, so I made sure to soak it to remove any lye taste.

Consistency:
- The salt brine retained a crisper, crunchier bite to it. Definitely more texture, not in a bad way, just different.
-The lye brine eliminated any crunch. The extra was more smooth, uniform ( through and through to the pit). Probably more olive - like.

Color:
- Salt brine maintained its green color. The color did dull a bit, but all the olives were pretty much uniform
- The lye brined olives were a variation of colors. greenish, yellowish, brownish, purplish, grayish, mixed, spotted. All had the same taste and consistency, just looked different.

Taste:
- The salt brine still had some bitterness, and saltiness ( I could have eliminated both if I kept up with the alternating salt/ water bath, but they were edible so I stopped). They also had a flavor to them.
- The lye brine eliminated all taste. It's was like biting into, and chewing water that was of olive consistency . Probably cause I over brined it. But, it also leaves a blank slate to marinate with other flavors. I currently have them in a salt brine to get them to be saltier, then I may experiment with other things ( vinegar, herbs ...)
 

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Thank you for the update, the details, and the pictures!
Looks like success doing it both ways. And you lucked out getting olives again. Yay.

I even checked 3 of the most upscale grocery stores within an hour and didn't find fresh olives at any of them.

I've usually purchased 5 lb bags of marinated olives a country mix of types, repackaged in 8 oz containers (12) frozen, that lasts us about a year sometimes more. We use them mostly for pizza and pasta salad.

I'm glad you took all the safety precautions for lye. It can be dangerous if handled unsafely.

Let us know how the third batch came out if you have the time. Thanks.
 
Larry,may I say, I'm impressed! Your various experiments are such fun.

You did not share your Brine solution ratios. That would help.

But Wow, what kinda Lye are you using? Draino?

It shouldn't burn you. I assume they make Food Grade Lye.

I would guess if you back of on the Lye to water ratio. You won't get Yellow Olives.

But again, A Fantastic Effort so far!

Thanks, Eric, Austin Tx.
 
I did use food grade lye. It was 3 Tbs per gallon of water.
Some recipes said a 12 hour bath would be enough (depending on the olive size), but could require 1 or 2 more baths. ( each bath with a new solution).

Another recipe was basically the same ratio lye to water, but had an initial 24 hour bath, followed by 2 twelve hour baths.

In both recipes, after the lye baths were complete, the olives need to soak in cold water ( changing it 2 -4 times a day) anywhere from 3 -6 days, depending if it still had a lye taste to hit.

The salt solution was some crazy amount like 2 cups per gallon. The elves crushed then in the solution for a good 5 - 7 days, then in play water for a week or so, then another salt solution, water ... keep alternating until the bitterness level Is acceptable or gone.

The lye method I saw online. I looked at a bunch of different recipes and listed the extremes at each end.

The salt method I got from an old Italian acquaintance, that he did for generations with his family.
 
This sounds really interesting. I want to hear how that first batch of lye brined olives taste, once they have been brined in salt water.

Just wondering if you used a voice to text thingee for that post. "elves" "play water". I'm pretty sure that was supposed to be olives and plain water. :LOL:
The salt solution was some crazy amount like 2 cups per gallon. The elves crushed then in the solution for a good 5 - 7 days, then in play water for a week or so, then another salt solution, water ... keep alternating until the bitterness level Is acceptable or gone.
 
This sounds really interesting. I want to hear how that first batch of lye brined olives taste, once they have been brined in salt water.

Just wondering if you used a voice to text thingee for that post. "elves" "play water". I'm pretty sure that was supposed to be olives and plain water. :LOL:
No voice to text, just poor typing skills and even worse proof reading skills ( the eyesight doesnt help much either lol).

So the first batch of lye cured have finished their lye bath , and have been soaking in the salty brine for a few days. The salt brine is pretty heavy on the salt, and the olives soak it up in a day or two. I tasted them and it was way too salty for me, so I diluted it significantly ( to taste), then started experimenting with vinegar. I put some vinegar in the less salty brine last night and just tasted one. It actually is starting to resemble the taste of a green olive. Im not sure if I have enough to perfect it, but I am definitely on the right track. I will definitely keep notes ( or refer back to this thread next year) and pick up where I left off. I have another batch that has finished its lye bath , and is going through the cold water bath now ( takes 3 - 6 days to get rid of soaking and changing to clean water before you get rid of that lye taste. I found that out the hard way last night after only 2 days). With this last batch, I probably have enough to do 4 different types of flavoring brines. If they have more green olives this week at the store, I may pick up for one more batch. My guess is they wont , cause the ones I got last week didnt appear as fresh as the first batch, so my guess is they were from the original batch at the store and they are just waiting for them to sell out, or rot.
 
So I just tasted 2 more, and they taste comparable to the Goya green olives I sometimes get. Like really close, so I think I'm on to something here. I used white vinegar. Also, the colors of the olives have now started to become more uniform over time. They now look the same color as the basic green olives I get from the store.
 
I ran back to the store and they were still selling the raw green olives, so I bought more. These were left overs from last week, so the quality was not as good. I went through the same process ( lye/ water alternating for a few days, then plain water for a few days changing the water 2 - 3 times a day, then a salt solution ). Good thing is I'm 2 for 2, so at least the method is consistent. I bought an olive pitter, but these olives I have are too big for it, or at least the pits are too big to be pushed through the hole of the mechanism. I did have a few that worked. I'll probably bring it to work and enlarge the hole a bit, I have nothing to lose. Im hoping to pit them, then stuff them with garlic, peppers ...
 

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