Table Olives

Home Processing of Table Olives

Processing olives at home is not difficult and we have a few recipes that are tried and tested but we will warn you there are a few things that can go wrong. In order to process your own olives for home use we would strongly advise you follow these guidelines:
  • Hygiene - vitally important that everything you use is spotlessly clean.
  • Sort the olives carefully and discard any that are bird pecked, bruised, diseased or otherwise not top quality.
  • Keep to consistent colours and sizes or the olives will not all be ready at the same time.
  • Sterilise all your equipment prior to starting.
  • If in doubt - throw it out!
  • Measure your brine using a refractometer or a hydrometer to make sure you have the correct amount of salt - too little and there is a real chance of bacterial spoilage, too much and the skins will come off the olives leaving a mush.
  • Prepare all the jars, lids, bottles, marinades, herbs and spices before you start the process.
  • Use cooking salt, not table salt, rock salt, sea salt or salt with added iodine. Just simple cooking salt.
  • Make sure the water supply is potable - tank water can often be contaminated with micro-organisms that may cause serious problems.
  • If you want to speed up the processing, either break open the olives with a mallet of slit them with a sharp knife - but be careful.
  • Green olives will take longer to process than black.
  • Large olives will take longer to process than small.
  • Solid olives will take longer to process than slit.
  • Slit olives will take longer to process than cracked.
  • Once in the jar processing may take 3 weeks or as long as 12 months depending on these variable factors.
There are two stages in preparing olives for eating:
  1. Getting the bitterness out of raw olives. This is generally done by either rinsing the olives in fresh water daily until the olives are edible, or by adding salt to the water and holding the olives under water for a few days / weeks until the bitterness is leeched out by the salt.
  2. Once they taste okay the next step is to preserve the olives in jars for eating later. The jars should contain either a simple salt brine marinade, but can also include vinegar, herbs and spices - to taste.

Yeast will form on the surface of the water at various stages - this is a light, fluffy white substance and is not harmful, so wash it off. If other colours form on the surface of the brine this could well indicate spoilage. If you add a layer of oil to float on top of the olives and brine (vegetable oil is fine) you should not get the yeast forming.