Community olives

This is a convoluted story with a number of unfortunate twists, I’ll tell you that upfront, but it does have a happy ending: I did cure and marinate olives worth eating.

olives worth eating

Take 1. My story begins on the 26th day of April 2009. I was pounding the pavement around the local streets when I spotted rotting olives on the ground. I looked up to see four trees dripping with olives. So I talked to the owners who told me to “pick what you like, it’s better than seeing them go to waste.”

With a handful of shopping bags and a borrowed ladder [thanks, E!], I picked everything I could reach in two hours. There was the perfect, tiny olive at eye level that looked like it would be beautifully sweet; the bunch up high that I managed to get to by bending back from the top of the ladder. I knew they would all taste so much better for the effort. This truly was cathartic work.

let the picking begin

While picking, a neighbour stopped by to ask how I was going and to offer advice on how to cure them (to remove the bitterness). Then another did the same. Then the owners of the house told me how they would do it, and suddenly I had three similar but different methods for curing my olives.

a bowlful of olives

I decided to use the traditional method for curing, according to the Hunter Olive Association website, which entailed slitting the olives three times apiece and placing them in brine for 10-12 days.

If you are following this method, my hot tip is to hold the knife stable and move the olive, instead of the other way around. I discovered this method after about an hour of slitting olives. My knife-hand stopped aching and I reduced my effort considerably.

slitting olives - and this is only a small percentage of my bounty

Three hours later, gazing down at the cabernet-coloured stains on my hands, I marvelled at the labour of love I had started. Now I just had to remember the daily saltwater change — which led to the issue of where to dump over 10L of saltwater each day for 10-12 days. Is there actually an ecologically sound way to dispose of saltwater?

In spite of the hard work I invested, this part of the story ends sadly. I did my brining time, however I tried to mass-marinate the olives and most ended up mouldy within a few weeks. What I could salvage, I turned into a rather average tapenade.

I vowed that curing olives was altogether too much hard work and I would not be doing it again.

Take 2, and mid-June 2009. Living in a different part of Perth, I noticed that trees that lined my driveway were heavy with olives. I hated to see them go to waste; I went olive picking, this time dragging a friend into my labours [thanks, J!].

I used the same method as the first batch, however I made a fatal error. When my parents came to stay, I put the brining buckets of olives outside, then forgot about them for a couple of weeks. Alas, the seals atop the buckets were less than airtight, and the brackish water proved perfect for midgie procreation. I lost the lot.

I vowed that curing olives was altogether too much hard work and I would not be doing it again.

Take 3, 5 July 2010, and I was determined not to let anything go wrong.

Little man and I picked olives from two of the trees lining the driveway. Deciding that there must be a less labour (and memory) intensive way to cure olives, I procrastinated for another five days before determining to use a curing method along the lines of “THE” Old World Mediterranean style hard pack Black Olives.

So it was that on the 6th day I absolutely smothered my olives with salt. I covered the bowl with a lid and turned them with a metal spoon whenever I remembered. Nearly two months later, on 29 August, I washed the shrivelled fruits and soaked them in clean, cold water for 24 hours.

After soaking, I placed them in sterilised glass jars to marinate with balsamic vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and a little olive oil.

olives in a balsamic marinade

I have been using these olives for the last two weeks and I am proclaiming my efforts to be a success. Though they are not the best I have ever tasted, my olives are still tasty enough to eat by themselves — and they are awesome on a raw pizza.

pizza, featuring my home-cured olives

In conclusion. I hear a number of you asking, “Why would you bother?” The short answer: because I wanted to see if I could. Using my homemade olives gives me a sense of pride and achievement, and the whole process taught me slow lessons about patience and consistency. Of course, it is a bonus that olives happen to have some great health benefits.

I hope you enjoyed [read: endured] my tale. Armed with my mixed bag of experiences, I encourage you to approach your nearest olive tree with a bucket and some vigour. And I would love for you to share your olive curing stories with me here.

H 🙂



  1. any chance of the pizza recipe…. I am just hanging out to find a great raw pizza base recipe and this looks delicious


    • Thanks so much for your comment, Vivien!

      That raw pizza recipe is pretty special. I am refining it and may blog about it in the future – but it will be featuring in my (un)cooking classes very soon.

      H 🙂


  2. are your classes going on line sothat we who are not close to your location or unable to get to a class can purchase your recipes? Have you considered an Ebook?
    regards Vivien


    • Thanks for that great idea, Vivien – I may just do that!

      I am in the process of finalising my e-book (for release in early 2011) and creating my website (due next month!), so I will look at including these recipes as part of either/both.

      H 🙂


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