An Overview of the different Ways to Cure Olives

If you go into grocery or specialty stores,you can typically find a wide selection of olives. Olives may be sold canned, bottled or from a “bar”; the latter meaning shoppers select their own olives, place in containers and purchase by weight. There are many kinds of olives such as bitteto, kalamata, and manzanilla, however they are further distinguished via their harvesting time and curing process.

A great accompaniment to meals or used in recipes, olives are a popular food, particularly in Greek, Italian and Spanish cooking, notes  MotherEarth News. However, unlike other fruits, raw olives from the tree are not very palatable in the natural state as they are very bitter. Before consumption, olives must be cured; the flavor and texture of olives are the result of which curing process has been done.

Here is an overview of the ways to cure olives after they are picked.

Oil-cured olives

This process of curing olives comes from soaking in oil for months, using a container such as a burlap sack, or as some suggest, a pillow case. Over the time of soaking, the bitterness of the uncured olive will fade away and be replaced with a pleasant taste.

Water-cured olives

According to Whole Foods, this method of curing olives is the “slowest of all” and not used very often. It entails soaking rinsing and re-soaking in plain water. Following the curing, the olives may be seasoned with brine, which is also used for curing.

Brine-cured olives

To create this type of olive, the producers oaks the olives in a prepared brine for one to six months. During this period replacing the brine periodically helps improve the flavor.

Dry-cured olives

According to the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, dry-cured olives are packed in salt in order to prepare for market. Moreover, the olives are salted for a minimum of five to six weeks. 

Lye-cured olives

The International Olive Council recommends lye-curing for green olives at the time they reach full size. After washing the olives they are then placed in a lye solution. Afterwards, the olives are then seasoned and preserved. 

Not all olives are created equal as they come in different sizes and color, and much depends upon the time they were picked. Some olives are sold off for consumption while others are destined to become oil.

How an olive is prepared for market varies the taste and texture of the olive and the above are the better known methods curers use.

Usually canned and bottled olives are the green and black varieties; green ones may be stuffed with pimentos or garlic, while the black ones are often just pitted or sliced. Purchasing from an olive bar, if available, will typically provide you with a large variety of olive types.