Pickled Olives

Ok, so I know that for most people, pickling their own olives is fairly unrealistic.  Having said that, my parents have been on holiday around this time of year and bought olives in local markets abroad and then successfully pickled the olives back in London.

We´re getting to that time of year here were the olives are fattening up nicely after the rain finally started and the boughs are beginning to bend under their weight.  Custom here says that they should be picked when the moon is waning, that is, in the week following a full moon.  I expect we´ll be picking early December for crushing and making olive oil, but this month I picked a few buckets full for us to eat over the coming months.

We have a few varieties growing in our little olive grove.  Large fat olives, the kind they often put in a dry martini.  They´re called Manzanilla and have a pleasant nutty taste. These are the olives in the bowl on the left.

The most common variety round here is called Verdial (right bucket) and makes excellent olive oil for eating “raw” i.e. in salads or on bread. They are medium sized and have a sweet fruity flavour.

We also have some tiny olives (centre bucket) which are a variety called Picual with a slightly more bitter and peppery taste.

I picked a mixture of these and put them into my most glamorous buckets, and covered them with water.  Luckily we can get spring water here as chlorinated or tap water does tend to give them a slightly different taste.

The water is changed daily until they lose their bitterness. Smaller ones take less time, and if you split them first they take even less time.  The process can take anything from a few days to a month…patience, patience.

Finally, when they´ve reached the right stage (and you´ll be tasting them to check them), they get a final rinse and are packed into containers, flavoured with herbs (I used dried chili, garlic, lemon peel and rosemary) and covered in a salty brine.

Just a few days more of patience and they´re ready to enjoy.  They´ll keep for months, up to a year if you´ve made enough to get you through to next November.  As time goes on they may get a little softer and a harmless scum, which can just be removed, will appear on top of the brine.

Now, how do you like your martini – shaken or stirred?

PS. For some other great ways of making your own olives to eat, check out these great posts here and here from Olives and Artichokes


50 thoughts on “Pickled Olives

  1. Oh, I wish I could taste these as they’re different varieties from the ones we have here. And I’m very envious of your beautiful old olive tree and its surrounding stones and chickens! And thanks for the links, too.

  2. The first thing I thought of when I got the email announcement for a post on olives, was Vodka Martini!

    That really is a beautiful tree – I’m very jealous of your olives and picking according to the moon cycles, how bio dynamic!

  3. Right, so when our one little olive tree eventually produces any fruit, I will know exactly what to do, thanks Tanya. Learn something new every day – never knew that you had to soak them to remove the bitter taste.
    I would like my martini shaken please. 😉
    🙂 Mandy

  4. How totally cool! Olives are a *bit* beyond us here in chilly New England, so I’m fascinated by them (naturally…we always want what’s just beyond our reach…).
    You are going to take us along when you press for oil, right?

  5. I can’t believe you posted this. Just two weeks ago, at my favorite Greek grocery, i saw a bin of green olives. I was going to send you an email to see if you knew what to do with them. As it is, I don’t know if they have them anymore and, frankly, I’m not so sure I want to know. I’ve already got plenty of “stuff” in jars around here and plan on making more for Christmas gifts. Another set, even if filled with the best olives in the World, just isn’t that appealing. Please tell me you won’t be canning, pickling, or “jarring” anything anytime soon. I’m beggin’ ya, Tanya!

    1. Sorry, sorry, sorry! I think that may be it for the year…apart from some medlars which are coming my way in the next few days 😉 You can taunt me with Cranberries…which we can´t get here as revenge! You should have e-mailed me, we could have simultaneously pickled!!

  6. Olive trees and black hens, that’s home – if I had chickens. If I did they would be Black Challans which would have to live as long as I did as I wouldn’t be able to put them in the pot. I cheat and have the eggs from my neighbours chickens. Lovely post – no surprise there

    1. Ooh – I don´t know that breed, will have to look them up. Ours are mainly Blue Andalucian´s but they were camera shy today! Our egg layers don´t go in the pot – they have long and happy lives pecking around the olives 🙂 Thanks for your kind words Roger!

  7. Oh my gosh. I hope my olive tree doesn’t grow that big. The neighbours will have to move.
    My best taste memory of Spain is sitting in a cafe on the beach front in Marbella eating olives.
    I just can’t get the same freshness from the deli or shop-bought bottled olives.
    Thanks, Tanya for the pickling process. I’ll have to go to the olive orchards here and get some fresh ones when they are in season.

    1. Hi Diane – that´s our oldest tree (and my favourite) and is rather big! Hope you´re pruning each winter…that should help! Good luck with the pickling..you´ll have to wait now until next year though 😦 Take care, T

  8. I used to pickle olives in NZ, and yours look fantastic, and I am going to look up those chickens Roger was talking about too.. tho i think in the end i have to do the rhode islands.. too cold here, .. no olives for me here sadly, but one day (not kidding) you may get a phone call from the railway station!!! late summer would be the best time to visit you in think because you will have all the best food in your cupboards, imagine if I could tow ChgJohn along too!! ha ha love the thought! c

    1. Wouldn´t that be fun – sitting at the table in the veggie garden, drinking wine, eating olives and taking it in turn to raid the cupboards! Olives don´t mind the cold, to some extent, but I think your winters are pretty severe 😦

  9. ¡Qué buena idea! Yo mis aceitunas las compro en el supermercado 😦
    En el jardín de casa tenemos un pequeño olivo que nos regaló una amiga cuando estaba embarazada de mi pequeño Fernando y nos da aceitunas, aunque no hacemos nada con ellas…
    Quizas algún día pueda hacer lo que haces tu.
    Me ha encantado tu post!!

    1. Todos lo compramos tambien en el supermercado! Pero merece la pena hacerlos, aunque si tienes solo medio kilo de aceituna – mi padre y un amiga (los dos en Londres) tienen unos arbolitos y cada año hacen sus aceitunas en un tarro pequeño…

  10. I’m so excited to see this! My Italian market has had barrels of fresh olives, or is it raw olives, and I’ve been dieing to buy them but had no clue as to what to do with them! I was too embarrassed to ask anyone! I hope they still have them cuz I’m buying them this weekend!!

  11. You are so very lucky to have such wonderful produce to hand. I’m very envious although The Husband is threatening to make me a tiny raised garden so I can dabble. I think after all that hard pickling you definitely deserve a Martini. Or two. 😉

    1. We are lucky and I hope I never take it for granted…apart from the fact that I´d now begrudge having to pay for much of the stuff we have growing! Actually, haven´t had a martini for years and now I fancy one 🙂 Even if you just grow a few herbs, it can make all the difference…I think The Husband should be “encouraged”!

  12. I had a sublime Martini when we went out for dinner for our anniversary. I heartily recommend it and you’ve no excuse with all those lovely olives just begging to be used! 😉

  13. We helped with the olive harvest last year but this year we were away for a few days and missed it. I have put my order in for 10 litres of the gorgeous oil though, can’t wait!! My friend Margarita who has the olive trees has never been able to pickle olives something always goes wrong, I’m going to forward this post on to her, yours look lovely!!

    1. Hope it works this time for your friend – otherwise, if she´s not averse to using it, the caustic soda method is foolproof and not as awful as it sounds. Let me know and I can tell you/her how to do it!

  14. Wow, how fun! I once helped (in a minor minor way) at a vendimia in northern Spain. It was pretty humbling, not that I had illusions about my agricultural abilities, but a lot of fun! I’ve read you have to cure olives in lye, this sounds much more pleasant. What luxury!

    1. Hi there and thanks for your visit and comments! Pickling with lye is actually quick and easy and not that horrendous…I confess to having done it this way too in the past with good results. This year´s batch were particularly good though and worth the wait 🙂 You have a lovely blog – have just been over for a look.

    1. For the start, just water. When they lose their bitterness and you pickle you make a salt and water brine and add any other flavours (garlic, rosemary, lemon zest) etc. It does take time though!

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