Lye-Cured Green Olives

green olives

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  • Total: 12 hrs
  • Prep: 12 hrs
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: bowl of olives

Many olives are cured using lye. It is time-consuming but worth the effort, especially if you have an olive tree.


  • Mature green olives (see instructions)
  • Lye
  • Water
  • Salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Use olives that are mature but still green. Purchase lye in the "cleanser" section of your grocery store (see warning below). Rinse the olives with water and place them in large glass or porcelain jars; then determine how much lye solution you need to cover the number of olives you have. Add a solution that has been mixed at the ratio of 1-quart water (at 65 to 70 degrees F.) to 1 tablespoon lye. Soak 12 hours.

  2. Drain olives; then soak 12 more hours in a fresh lye solution. Drain and rinse. Cut into the largest olive; if the lye has reached the pit, the lye cure is complete. Rinse again and soak in cold water. Usually two lye baths are enough for the small Mission olives seen in specialty produce stores. If one more bath is necessary, soak in a fresh lye solution for 12 more hours; then drain and rinse with cold water.

  3. Soak the olives in fresh, cold water, changing the water three (or more) times a day for the next three days. At the end of three days, taste an olive to make sure that there is no trace of lye flavor remaining.

  4. Soak the olives for at least one day in a brine solution mixed at the ratio of 6 tablespoons salt to 1 gallon of water. The olives are now ready for eating. Store the rest in the brine solution in a cool, dark place, preferably the refrigerator, or marinate and store in the refrigerator. Use within two months.

WARNING: Lye can cause serious burns. Keep lemon or vinegar handy to neutralize any lye that splashes onto the skin. If lye gets into your eyes, bathe them in running water and call your doctor. If lye is swallowed, call your doctor, drink milk or egg whites, and do not induce vomiting.
Recipe Source: by Maggie Blyth Klein (Aris Books). Reprinted with permission.

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