The cure is finished . . . finally! I cured these babies, using the simple water curing method for Kalamata-style olives, for about fifteen days. There are many methods you can use to cure olives–dry salt, brine, water, lye–I chose the simple water method for my first foray into the wonderful world of olives because it seemed so stupid simple. A lot of what I had heard from others about curing your own olives was that it was a huge undertaking; an arduous task. Granted, you have to be vigilant about caring for your olives and watching for spoiled or “questionable” olives during the process, but that’s no big deal, really. I didn’t have any problems. In fact, I was out of town for a big chunks of time during the cure and I entrusted my 15-year old son with the ceremonial changing of the water for four or five days at a time during my absence.
Before I left for a long weekend a couple of weeks ago, I showed Garrett how to change the water. Drain, rinse, soak, cover. Easy peasy. After we changed the water in the big bucket together, he asked if he could taste one. I said, “Sure, but it’s going to be super bitter.” He tasted it anyway. The face he made made me laugh. The olive was totally inedible.
Yesterday when I was ready to make the finish brine for the olives, I broke one open and gave it a taste. You know what? It tasted like an olive. At this point, it didn’t have any real flavor–just a boring olive flavor and a tiny bit of bitterness. But it was good. I made Garrett try it. He was a little worried, having tasted the bitter “raw” olive a couple of weeks ago. He agreed–the cure was working!
My favorite olive is the kalamata olive, which is salty and rich with a slightly bitter finish. I’m half-way there.
Like I said, it was stupid-simple. If you’ve got an olive tree or access to fresh olives, give home curing a try. Basically, all you have to do is soak the prepared olives in water and change the water daily for a week or more, depending on the olive style and the desired level of bitterness. After the curing, the olives are placed in a finish brine, which is a vinegar-salt solution that adds the flavor. Olives that are water cured will be slightly bitter because water curing removes less oleuropein and other bitter compounds in the olive than other methods.
On to the finish brine. It’s a simple mixture of pickling salt, water and red wine vinegar. Once the de-bittered olives are drained, the olives are simply covered with the finish brine and stored. The olives marinate in the brine for about a month to develop the desired flavor. So, yes . . . I’ll still be waiting. My friend, Colleen, said she’s already planning a trip out to see me (she lives in the San Diego area). She promised to arrive with wine, bread and cheese in hand. I’ll be ready for her.