First of all – this process is known as “oil curing” not “salt curing” but since the actual curing is done by the salt and the oil is just a finisher – I think it’s ridiculous to keep calling it oil curing, even though that’s what it’s traditionally known as. I like to be specific as much as possible. Henceforth everyone will be confused about what I’m talking about – except for me. Once again I am following curing instructions by one of my favorite food bloggers Hank Shaw. His post “How to Make Oil-Cured Olives” is a must read if you want to try this. There are other articles you can read about this – but make sure this one is part of your research.
My dad has a rental property in the town of Sonoma on which he has a small vineyard of pinot grapes and a small orchard of olive trees. They are all varieties of olives grown specifically for pressing oil which he does at various community presses. I have missed out on his olive adventures because they only started maturing while I was living in Oregon. He said I could come pick some for curing before the big harvest for pressing which happens in a couple of weeks. So my friend Sharon and I headed out to his place yesterday for some olive picking.
The orchard is very pretty. I love olive trees. However – the first thing we noticed and what I ought to have realized before going up there is that the olives are very small. Olives for pressing have a much smaller flesh to pit ratio and tend to be much smaller than eating olives – I know this because I’ve read a whole book about olives. Never the less – we both picked a small bag of the small ripe ones to cure. Since I didn’t get to use many of them for curing I am going to come back to help my dad and his crew pick them for pressing. Hanging out in olive orchards, even little ones, is really peaceful.
We were disappointed in not having had more olives to play with but Sonoma is absolutely covered in olive trees so we kept our eyes peeled for promising trees. We ended up finding a couple of trees in front of a house-turned-radio-station on a main street and got permission to pick them. These babies were ripe and nice sized. In the end this is what I came home with:
1 lb 3 oz of my dad’s small olives
2 lbs med olives from Sonoma (town tree)
Hank suggests putting them in old (but clean, obviously) pillow cases. Because I wanted to keep my two varieties separate and because I didn’t have many of either I cut my pillow cases down in size. I used about a 1 to 2 ratio of salt to olives (in pounds).
Here’s an informative image to demonstrate the size of my olives to each other and to a quarter for reference. I am annoyed by quarters being used for sense of scale but when I tried using a thumb tack for contrast it wasn’t effective. Oh well.
Hank hangs his olives out in his back yard. Since I don’t have anything rigged up yet or a good spot chosen I just hung them on a rod in my tall bucket. These will live in my office until they’re done or until I find a good spot in the yard. They will eventually start dripping black olive juices. Yum. I’ll keep you posted on the progress. I’m hoping to get a lot more ripe olives to cure in the next few weeks. I definitely have enough green ones at this point. Tomorrow I will jar up my first batch in their second brine with flavorings. I’m pretty excited. I want to do it right now but I need to get back to the paid job.
If any of you have salt cured olives and want to share your results or methods that have worked for you – please do!