It’s been a long wait to see if the bitter olives I tried my hand at preserving some 9 weeks ago would actually turn into something edible. I’m finally ready to tell you how it all turned out…
The salt dried olives were supposed to be ready approximately 3 weeks after curing them. I diligently turned the olives each day, drained the slushy liquid every so often and topped them up with fresh salt as needed. 9 weeks on and it hurts me to say that the salt dried olives, for some reason still taste bitter (I’ve been testing them for 6 weeks!). They have certainly shrivelled up, all the moisture has been drawn out of them, but for some reason the taste is not as it should be. I think it’s safe to say that this particular method was a bit of a failure on this occasion. As this is my first foray into the world of olive curing, I can’t offer any great explanation as to why they didn’t work out. I used murray river sea salt… maybe that’s where I went wrong? Perhaps cooking salt would have been more effective…
But all is not lost, the bulk of the olives were put into a brine solution and left in relative darkness so the salt could work it’s magic. I’ve been tasting the olives each week from about week 5 to check for readiness and now at week 9, I think we’re finally there. Most of the bitterness has now gone from the olives but it’s been replaced with salt! The olives are way too salty to eat as they are. Never mind, after a quick google search, it turns out that this has happened to someone before (surprise, surprise). To drawn the salt out of the olives, it’s recommended that you put them in cold water in the fridge for 24 hours and then repeat for another 24 hours if necessary. I did this twice and the olives were substantially less salty after being in cold water for 2 days. Thanks google.
I decided to store some of the olives in little jars with olive oil, garlic and a few different herbs and spices (rosemary, oregano, fennel seeds, chilli) see note below. The rest of the olives will go back into one of the big 3Lt glass jars with olive oil and they can be flavoured as they are served (I ran out of jars!).
So would I go to the effort of preserving olives again? If there was a tree full of olives that were going to go to waste, then yes I would. But I would just brine them. The salt dried process, although a shorter curing time, takes a bit more maintenance with the daily turning, draining etc. Once you brine the olives, you pretty much just leave them. Much easier. All that’s left now is to give the olives back to my brother-in-law and hope that he likes them!
Note: I noticed after having stored the olives for a week or so with the oil and herbs etc that the chilli started to soften and produce a milky liquid. I was a bit worried about this so I started to read up on preserving the olives in oil with fresh herbs, garlic and chilli. I came cross an article that said fresh herbs etc release water which could cause a microbiological reaction and make the olives unsafe to eat. You should store the olives only with dehydrated herbs and chillies.
Not wanting to kill anyone, I decided it was best to throw out the olives that I stored with fresh herbs, garlic and chillies. I wasn’t happy about it. The oil had infused and smelt wonderful… I do still have a big jar of olives left though so i’ll marinate these as they are eaten.