There’s a reason why the ancient Greeks served olives with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This delicious little fruit complements countless dishes and makes a great snack all on its own. But eat olives straight off the vine and you’re in for a bitter surprise. The curing process drains uncured olives of their overwhelming taste.
Brine-curing your own olives is an easy, cost-effective way to restock your pantry. Furthermore, harvesting your own olives is better for your body. Most olives on supermarket shelves are filled with excess sodium. Just a few servings can contain up to 1300 milligrams of salt, or more than half the daily amount recommended by the American Heart Association. Like any healthy snack, it’s easy to overdo it with olives—and all the salt is hard on your kidneys and puts you at risk for high blood pressure. (Plus, no one wants to look bloated after trying to eat clean!)
The Benefits of Eating Olives
The olive makes the Mediterranean diet one of the best eating plans for a long, healthy life. According to nutrition expert Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, olives should be a staple on your shopping list because their compounds
increase nitric oxide production, improving vascular function by promoting blood flow to your tissues. That's beneficial for both short-term and long-term health, since better circulation enhances everything from sprints at the gym to overall risk of chronic disease. Some types of olives can also provide up to 25% of your iron needs, an important mineral that helps deliver oxygen to your organs.
The fats that make olives and olive oil so good for you also fill you up. Eating a small handful of olives every day makes it easier to avoid unhealthy snacking.
Which Olive Curing Method is Best?
You can make olives at home using a few different techniques. The ideal curing method depends on the type of olives you pick. Common ways to cure olives include:
- Dry-curing involves rubbing olives in coarse sea salt for 3-4 weeks. The salt soaks up excess bitterness. This method works best for black olives. After the curing process, the black olives can be immediately eaten as-is or preserved with an olive oil bath.
- Oil-curing takes dry-curing a step further. This method works best for black olives. After the olives are dried out, they are transported into an airtight container filled with olive oil and spices like rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Oil-curing for 1-2 months gives olives a meaty, soft texture. Black Moroccan olives are typically cured in oil.
- Brine-curing is the easiest method for beginners and a good choice for all varieties of olives. All you need is a little coarse sea salt, water, and apple cider vinegar to turn your olives into seasonings or delicious snacks. It’s not the fastest way to transfer olives from the vine to your plate, but the wait is well worth it. The fermentation process packs your olives with impeccable flavor. This method makes green olives perfectly salty and a little tangy.
Brine-Curing Green Olives at Home in 7 Steps
Traditionally, olives were brine-cured by being left in large bags on seaside docks. But no matter where you live, you can brine-cure green olives using your choice of salt, spices, and vinegar. It takes around 8 months to completely break down the oleuropein, a bitter compound that makes uncured olives too overwhelming to eat.
Supplies to concoct your brine
- Green, uncured olives
- Purified water
- Kosher salt
- Apple cider vinegar
- Garlic, chili peppers, rosemary, and thyme (optional)
- 1 plastic tub, 5-gallon bucket, a curing crock, or narrow-neck jars
How to brine-cure your olives
- Begin by removing bruised or shriveled olives from your batch. Transfer the olives into a BPA-free container or a curing crock.
- For every four cups of water, add 1/4 cup of kosher salt and ACV. Keep adding your water-salt-vinegar mixture until your olives are fully submerged.
- To keep the olive from bobbing to the top, place a mesh cloth. Alternatively, line a 5-gallon bucket with a brining bag and tie the bag closed. If you don’t have access to a large container, narrow-neck jars will weigh down your olives.
- Place your containers in a cool place away from sunlight, then cover them with a cloth. Prevent flies from ruining your olives by placing cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil around the containers.
- Periodically check on the olives. Every few weeks, remove debris off the surface of the brine.
- In 12 to 14 weeks, your olives should be ready to transfer into a new brine. Refer to steps two and three.
- Repeat the brine transfer every few months until the green olives are sufficiently sweet. Transfer the olives into jars filled with a weaker brine: for every 4 cups of water, add 1/8 cup of kosher salt and ACV. Add your favorite spices and pop them into the fridge.
Brine-cured olives typically expire after 6 to 8 months. The process takes patience and persistence. But the pay-off is in the flavor. Just one bite of a homemade olive will convince you to never go for store-bought again!