Brine-Cured Olives

A small bowl of Kalamata olives

Foodcollection RF / Getty Images

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Brining Time: 0 mins
Total: 0 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
40 Calories
4g Fat
2g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 40
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 5614mg 244%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 42mg 3%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 5mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Brine-cured olives are such a delicious treat, and making them at home requires nothing but time, water, vinegar, and salt. Traditional brining happened with mesh bags and seawater, but our recipe is the easiest way in which olives from a backyard tree become an edible ingredient—no seawater needed. As most of us don't have an olive tree but could get access to fresh olives at a good price, our simple recipe brings to your table flavorful salted olives to use in appetizers, salads, or pasta dishes, amongst many other recipes in which olives shine. These olives are especially good when served alongside dry salt-cured olives for a nice taste and texture contrast.

The initial water and salt curing process is similar to making lacto-fermented foods, and it is very close to the process used to make Kalamata olives. Because this is a time-consuming process, you should start your olives a few weeks ahead of when you want to have them ready. Jars of homemade olives make wonderful gifts, and they keep very well for many months so you can enjoy tasty olives all year round.

Before you start, be sure to have at hand glass jars that comfortably fit all the olives you want to cure and a pot or bowl made of a non-reactive material—no aluminum, copper, or non-enameled cast iron. For our process, there is no need to sterilize the jars. The total time comes to 4 weeks plus 3 days of brining, and at least a week before sampling.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups raw olives (red or brown)

  • 5 quarts water, more as needed

  • 13 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (or other non-iodized salt), divided

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Remove any stems or leaves and compost or discard them. Thoroughly rinse the olives, discard any bruised ones.

  3. With the tip of a sharp paring knife, score each olive lengthwise 1 to 3 times.

  4. Place the scored olives into a medium-sized nonreactive bowl or pot.

  5. Cover the olives with cool water. Place a plate that's slightly smaller than the rim on top of the olives. Weigh down the plate with cans of food or some heavy object to keep the olives submerged at all times. Leave the olives soaking in the water for three days.

  6. Drain the olives in a colander and put them back into the pot.

  7. Make a brine by dissolving 3 tablespoons of the salt in 1 quart of water.

  8. Pour the brine over the olives. Replace the plate and weight. Leave for one week.

  9. Drain the olives again and repeat the brine with the same measurements—3 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. Weigh down and leave for one week. Repeat the rinse and brine process 2 more times, 4 times total, which will result in four weeks of brining in salted water plus three days of the initial submersion in plain water.

  10. Drain the olives and transfer them to clean glass jars.

  11. Make a brine with 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and 1 pint water. Stir in the red wine or apple cider vinegar and pour the brine over the olives in the jars.

  12. Tightly cover the brined olives and store them in the refrigerator or a cool cellar for up to one year. The flavor will improve if you wait at least a week or two before sampling.

  13. Enjoy them as an appetizer or ingredient in your favorite recipes.

Why Do You Need to Brine Olives?

Right off the tree, an olive is inedible. It won't make you sick, but the bitterness and texture are so off-putting that an un-brined olive is just unpalatable. A compound called oleuropein makes raw olives very bitter. But a good brine makes them the delicious ingredient that we love-brine-cured olives should be ready in 4 weeks (if not, allow at least two more weeks of brining, changing the brine after each week.)

Olives are cured in salted water or in plain salt to help the fruit get rid of the high levels of oleuropein—nature's trick to keep away fruit-eating animals and to attract birds that swallow the olives whole, thus dispersing the seeds to other places.