ABCs of Curing

Pick olives for the home curing at the green or straw-colored stage. Do not use black-ripe fruit; it becomes too soft during lye treatment.

Treating olives with lye removes the bitterness. Flake or household lye can be used for curing olives. To dispose of lye solution, pour down the toilet and flush several times, or pour down the sink and run cold water to rinse it out.

WARNING: Lye can cause serious burns! Handle with care! Use lemon or vinegar to neutralize lye that splashes onto the skin. If lye gets into the eyes, rinse the eyes with running water and call the doctor. If lye is swallowed, call the doctor, drink milk or egg whites – do NOT induce vomiting.

Regular table salt can be used in curing olives. Salt gives olives their characteristic flavor and serves as a preservative.

Use wood, glass, stoneware or heavy, light-colored plastic containers. Stirring utensils should be stainless steel or wood.

HINT: Be sure olives are completely covered by solution during all stages of curing. Exposure to air darkens the olives.

    1 Soak 12 hours in lye solution – 4 Tablespoons lye to 1 gallon cold water solution should not be over 65 to 70 degrees Farenheight before adding olives. Stir occasionally.
    2 Drain and soak 12 more hours in fresh lye solution. Cut into a large – lye will change the flesh to a yellow-green color, penetrating to the pit.
    3 If the lye has not penetrated to the pit, soak an additional 12 hours in a fresh lye solution.

  2. RINSE
    1 Rinse in cold water.
    2 Soak 6 hours in fresh, cold water.
    3 Change the water and soak 6 more hours in fresh, cold water. Repeat this 4 times a day for 4 to 8 days until there is no lye taste.

    1 Cover with salt brine – 6 Tablespoons salt per gallon of water. Let stand two days. Refrigerate and use within two weeks. To keep longer then two weeks, follow the next two steps or process in a pressure canner.
    2 Cover with salt brine – 13 Tablespoons salt per gallon of water – store one week.
    3 Cover with fresh salt brine – 1 pound or 1-2/3 cups salt per gallon of water – let stand 10 to 12 days.
    NOTE: For options 2 and 3, use the olives within two to four months. Before eating, soak olives overnight in fresh water to remove excess salt. Use within three days after soaking.


If at any time the olives become soft or bad smelling, do not eat or even taste them. Also, mold or scum may form on the brine, skim it off as soon as it appears. If the mold growth is heavy, destroy the olives.

Olives are a low acid food and require careful handling to prevent botulism. Olives MUST be canned in a presure canner. The complete directions for canning can be found at the library, generally under Home Pickling of Olives.

  1. Harvest olives during the over ripe stage. This would be when the olives are very black on the tree and appear to be shriveling up.
  2. Once you have harvested the olives, de-stem them and wash them gently in warm water.
  3. Get a plastic food grade bucket, 5 gallon is preferred. Next take rock salt and layer the bottom of the bucket with about 2-3 inches evenly. Then you layer olives the same way and continue until the bucket is full. The top layer should be salt.
  4. Cover with cheese cloth or a light towel. Let stand for 3-4 days. After 4 days, stir the olives once or twice daily. After 10-15 days you may begin tasting the olives. You will know when the olives are done by the flavor and consistent purple color from the outer skin to the middle of the olive.
  5. When satisfied with the flavor you may want to wash off any excess bitterness left on the outside of the skin. Roll the olives in olive oil and put in an air tight jar. Do not refrigerate.

  1. Harvest olives and be sure that the skins are smooth.
  2. Make up a 100 gallon brine solution at 18 degrees salometer, . 409 Lbs rock salt per 100 gallons of water. Add 1 quart of lactic acid per 100 gallons water.
  3. Steadily build salt solution up 2 degrees per month by adding .011Lbs of salt per week for the first month, then add .011Lbs per 2 weeks from then on until salometer peaks at about 26 degrees by mid day.
  4. 37-38% liquid per 55 gallon barrel.
  5. Air should be allowed to escape the lid at barrel top.