My Experience Curing Green Olives (Hank Shaw Recipe)

This post was originally published on October 3, 2017 and was updated on January 2, 2021. 

Learning how to cure green olives naturally was one of my first solo urban homesteading attempts. It was such an enjoyable and fruitful venture that curing green olives has turned into an annual tradition that happens every late September. I just wanted to share my first-time experience using Hank Shaw’s olive curing guide on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

Though curing olives yourself sounds painstaking, the fermentation is easy. It takes a long time for raw, bitter olives to become delicious, but most of it is passive wait time.

It’s hard to wait for your first batch of cured green olives, but it’s fun to do at least once. There’s nothing like breaking out a jar of home-cured marinated olives as an appetizer or as a gift for a friend. They’re much more fun to eat than store-bought.

For those in the Lower Mainland of BC, I bought these jumbo green olives from Bosa Foods in East Vancouver in 20-pound bags. They were available seasonally in September. I called ahead a few times until they had them in stock.

how to cure green olives

how to cure green olives

how to cure green olives

Using the Olive Brine Method

I used the brining method outlined by Hank Shaw to cure green olives. Because of the quantity of olives I wanted to process, and limitations of apartment building, I switched between my bathtub and kitchen sink for sanitizing and processing.

how to cure green olives

Here I sorted and removed any bulk-purchased olives with significant bruising, shrivelling, or olive fly marks (pictured below).

how to cure green olives

Olive flies are more likely to get at foraged olives than olives that you buy raw from a store. The flies leave a clear marking on the olive, which shows where the larvae have burrowed into the olive.

Green olives with tiny dots are fine, though. If the olives are pre-washed, you don’t need to sanitize them with anything, but you can give them another rinse if you want to.

For sanitizing the fermentation container, I dissolved no-rinse sanitizer solution in just enough water to dissolve the powder fully. After, I covered the food safe bucket, matching lid, and weights (plates and bowls) fully with no-rinse sanitizer.

how to cure green olives

how to cure green olives

Here I’ve added the green olives to the brine solution, checking that I had enough brine to fully submerge the olives. I made and added more brine as needed using a food scale.

how to cure green olives

This is before I submerged the olives with food safe weights. I just used clean plates and bowls from my kitchen as weights. There’s no need to be fancy.

how to cure green olives

After setting the food weights down, I covered the olive container with a tight fitting lid and store the bucket in undisturbed in a dark, cool place. I use my hallway closet in my tiny apartment to store them. It’s the same place I ferment kimchi. It’s a handy closet, I use it to store tools, lightbulbs, backup home supplies, outerwear, shoes, hats, and all my ongoing ferments.

I changed the brine every month or two for six to nine months, or until the olives are soft, salty and fully cured. You’ll know when they’re ready when they are comparable, but better, than store-bought olive.

Feel free to taste test them as they cure. Olives are safe to eat, though not particularly good when raw, at any stage of the curing process.

Marinating Cured Olives in Flavored Oil

When my olives were cured, I marinated them in good olive oil with aromatics, herbs and spices as desired. My favorite combination was fresh Thai chili or crushed red chili flakes, peeled garlic clove, oregano and rosemary. Lemon peel is also very nice, if you prefer citrus. Marinated olives make a great gift or appetizer, too. 

how to cure green olives

Troubleshooting Curing Green Olives

Help, there’s a white scum covering my green olives!

White scum is fine if it’s just a Kahm yeast growth. Just skim the white scum off the surface of the brine as soon as you notice it, change the brine, and discard any overly softened olives. There are also not-good growths that may occur during your fermentation. If you aren’t sure, check with an expert. Reddit, FB groups and fermentation forums are filled with people able to diagnose your unexpected growth, scum or molds.

My olives smell/taste/feel weird. Should I still eat them? 

As I can’t see, taste, or feel your olives, I can’t tell you whether they’re safe or not. However, I’d recommend you err on the side of caution when it comes to weird, funky tastes, bad textures, or crazy looking molds. When in doubt, throw them out. If you’re not comfortable eating them, don’t!

This post was originally published on October 3, 2017 and was updated on January 2, 2021. 

Posted by Arielle

Arielle is a passionate urban homesteader and hunter located in Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

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