We live in Northern California. There are olive trees all over the place. We even live close to one of the premier olive oil producers anywhere, Lucero in Corning. Corning is the center of olive growing in Northern California. To prove the point we have 15 Mission olive trees on our property alone. I thought about making our own olive oil a while back so I went over to Lucero to find out how to do it. I came away with feeling overwhelmed by the whole process. I felt as though we'd wind up doing a heck of a lot of work and then have grubby olive oil to show for it. Grubby means infested with insects. It's a style. It's just not my style. So it just didn't seem worth it. I now realize why cold press extra virgin olive oil is so expensive. It takes a crazy amount of work to produce it!
This year we have another bumper crop of olives. So instead of pressing oil I thought why not try curing the dang things? I asked around to some local people and came up with a process that might work so I'm going to try it. I'm going to try salt-cured ripe olives. Let's see how I do.
Here's what I was told to do by my neighbor.
Salt-Cured Ripe Olives — Part One
1 lb of hand-picked ripe Mission olives (Mission olives are small and full of oil so they are the best variety to use for this process or so I am told. Thankfully that's the kind we have.)
2 lbs of non-iodized salt (I used kosher salt)
Cover the bottom of a thick cardboard or wooden box with burlap or cheesecloth. In a bowl, mix together equal weights of non-iodized salt and olives. (For example, one pound of olives to one pound of salt.) Spread the olives and salt evenly in the box. Pour an additional layer of non-iodized salt over everything so that nearly all of the olives are covered. This will probably be an additional pound of salt. Place the box outdoors in the shade or somewhere safe so any liquid that oozes from it will not stain the surface underneath. Stir the salt-covered olives well with a wooden spoon once a week for four weeks, or until the olives are cured. Bite into one to see how it tastes to know if they're cured like you want them. They are supposed to taste slightly bitter.
Salt-Cured Ripe Olives — Part Two
Once your olives are cured the way you like them remove them from the salt. Dip the olives in a large pot of boiling water for a few seconds; then drain in a colander and stop the cooking with cold tap water. Spread them on paper towels and let them dry for a few hours or overnight. Coat the olives you wish to eat within a few days with fruity olive oil (rub them with your fingers to distribute the oil) and keep them in the refrigerator in a tightly capped jar.
if you have any leftovers you can mix them at a ratio of two parts olives to one part non-iodized salt by weight and keep them refrigerated. They won't keep more than a month.
In about 4 weeks I will write a post about how they turned out and what I learned.
Good luck to me!