Preserving olives three ways

14 June 2018
For many years I dismissed the idea of preserving my own olives. I had tasted several home made attempts over the years from others and was left unimpressed. So, I figured this was just one of those things that was better left to the experts.

All this changed when I tried a good friend's attempts a couple of years ago. These were delicious, clearly surpassing any other home made attempt I'd tried and rivaling many bought options. This, coupled with the free olives available for foraging in my suburb, spurred me on to give it a go.

I'm glad I did, as now I can tick one more item off the 'to buy' list and look to my own preserves for delicious and tasty olives. Here are three different ways you can take the plunge and preserve your own too.

Quick Salt Brine

This method uses a salt brine to draw out the bitterness of the olives. When I first researched this method the instructions were to change the brine everyday - yikes, that's a lot of wasted water in my books and salty water is tough to get rid of thoughtfully. So, I experimented and came up with a varied method.

  1. Wash your olives then prick with a fork or make a small slit in them  to allow the brine to get in and the bitterness to get out. The most hands on step - good to do with a podcast in your ears.
  2. Place in food grade plastic buckets or glass jars.
  3. Make up a 10% brine solution - one part salt to 10 parts water. I generally boil 3 parts of the water to dissolve the salt and then top up with cool water.
  4. Pour the brine over your olives and leave in a place they wont get disturbed but also wont get forgotten. Like any ferment you need to make sure all your olives are completely covered - I use a piece of cut up plastic lid on top.
  5. Change the brine once a week for three weeks. Taste an olive - if it's still too bitter for you then brine for another week and taste again (or continue ahead and just leave them in the jars for a couple of months before enjoying).
  6. From here you have two options - marinate and pop in the fridge to enjoy or jar them up for storing in the pantry to enjoy over the coming months. 
    • The mix that I use to jar them up is 2L water, 1 cup vinegar, 2 Tablespoons salt and flavourings (garlic, herbs, lemon etc) - amount adjusted for how many jars. I pack the olives into clean jars, top with the mix and water bath them so that they keep safely in the pantry long term - but I'm sure there are many Italians and Greeks that simply pop them in the cupboard.
    • To marinate for the fridge you can use this same mix or make up an oil and flavourings mix (here is a suggestion if you need some inspiration).

Olives in brine after one week - ready for their first change.

Long Game Salt Brine

This year I'm trying a new method that I came across over at Sally's excellent blog. I haven't tried the end product myself but can trust Sally to point us in the right direction. This method puts the olives in a brine with flavours and then leaves them there for 6 months. So, less hands on initially but more time to wait until they are ready to enjoy. Also, less salty water to deal with.

I'm looking forward to comparing the results with the quick brine method.

End of stage one - ready for their long brine bath.

Dry Salt Cured Olives

Have you ever tried these wrinkly little guys? They are definitely a little more salty than their briny companions but add a nice variety to the olive options.

  1. Cover the bottom of a clean jar (or jars) with a layer of rock salt.
  2. Prepare the olives as you go as per step one above. Alternate adding olives and layers of salt to your jar. My research suggests up to two layers of olives works ok.
  3. Finish with a layer of salt.
  4. Leave at room temp and shake your jar every now and then (or not if you forget!). Make sure the top of the olives remains covered in salt.
  5. After 3 weeks take out and olive, give it a rinse and a taste. If it's to your liking bitterness wise you are ready to proceed, if not keep going and taste once a week until they are as you like them (they will be salty of course).
  6. Rinse the salt off your olives and spread in a single layer on a clean tea towel to dry completely.
  7. Once completely dry toss the olives in a bowl with enough olive oil to coat.
  8. Pack into a clean jar, add any flavours you'd like and store in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Ready for their final layer of salt.

You've still got time to get out there and forage some olives from an unused tree before the frost or the birds do them in. Go on, give it a go.

Have you preserved your own olives before? If, so what method have you tried?
If not, inspired to give it a go?


  1. I've never preserved olive, though I love them. I don't know where I can find fresh olives in my area. I've never seen fresh ones at the store.
    I love how you make lots of things at home. 😊

    1. What a shame there aren't any unused or wild olives around. I've always had success sourcing them in neighbourhoods with a history of Greek or Italian migrants - they really did know their priorities when settling somewhere new!
      It's been a long process of adding things here and there but it's such a rewarding process to make your own at home (IMO anyway).

  2. How lucky you can grow olives in abundance, I just love them.

    1. These are all picked from other people's trees that otherwise would have gone to waste. Currently we are renting so no olive growing for me day!

  3. Branches from our neighbour's olive trees overhand our fence and we can reach these from our back rotunda. Although we don't eat olives, we pick them because my mother-in-law loves them and she preserves them. It's not a huge amount but she enjoys them. meg:)

    1. I bet she does. And it's definitely better than them going to waste. Olives are definitely an acquired taste - my mum has a Maltese background so we had olives from a very young age - and now I've passed the love onto my own 2 girls. Sadly, Mr GGE is not a fan.

  4. Hi Laura, I stumbled on that dry salting method, searching on-line for various ways of pickling. I had a few olives left and couldn't face throwing them away so I've done only one jar but I'm going back to my forage spot for more olives and plan on doing a few more jars. They're apparently ready to eat quite soon after pickling. I'll let you know how they turn out. P.S thanks for the link. :-)

    1. Hope you manage to score a few more. The dry salted ones are a good addition to the olive preserves - definitely on the saltier side, but good nonetheless.


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