If you have been attending any of my classes at Loblaw PC Cooking Schools you will have heard me speak of this delightful antipasto which was gifted to me last year by my friend Chef Maria. I was amazed with the taste of the olives she had pickled. How? I asked. Maria promised to show me and yes told me, that I would be making my own with her guidance in olive season. This meant I’d have to wait almost 1 year before I could make this recipe, they are only available here in September. We talked about it constantly and even discussed seasonings I’d like to try – chilies, garlic, rosemary, lemon, coriander seed etc. Finally the time came and so did my case of olives.

The kinds of olives you pick are up to you. We only wanted the green olives as that’s what the recipe called for. Last year, she managed to get beautiful large olives from Spain, this year, we settled for a smaller green variety from California. Yes, weather changes led to a bad crop and so the Spanish ones weren’t available. See Mr. Trump, it is real!

You’ve probably seen cases of olives in your local grocery store – especially if you live in the Italian parts of town, but probably walked right by them thinking “way too much work”. Well you’d be wrong. This is a labor of love – probably 1 hour the first day, then about 10 minutes a day for the next 7 – 10 days, I’ll explain. You buy the case of olives and take them lovingly take them home. I can’t think of one Italian grocery store that I’ve been to that hasn’t carried it. You know the ones – Fortino’s, Lady York, Longo’s, Highland Farms, Vince’s in Uxbridge and yes, even some Loblaw’s to name a few.

Wash the olives when you get them home. You will need a large plastic pail – large enough to hold all the olives as well as water to cover by at least two inches. For the next 7 days you will change the water the olives are bathing in. This is a must as with each change of water, bitterness is removed from the olive. By the time Day 7 has arrived, you pretty much have a cured olive – no taste yet, but a cured olive.

Now you know I like to experiment and don’t always listen to what I’m told when it comes to recipes. I had read about this curing process where they used salted water. So for the last 6 months, I have been asking Maria – over and over again – “did you ever salt the water?” To which she would always reply – “no, I’ve never done that”. Not one to give up easy, I really wanted her to say, well let’s try a batch. She never did. So, I tried a small batch. There is a reason why she doesn’t salt the olives; there really is no reason to. It just adds more sodium to your diet. You can get the same results with just fresh clean water. So, lesson learned Maria!

The best part of this recipe – no boiling of jars to seal them or keep them preserved. You merely add the olives and seasonings to the jar and then fill with the solution. Screw the lid on tight and place in the fridge or very cold cellar. They will keep for up to 1 year. Make these olives, I will send a reminder next year, but wanted to capture the process while it was still fresh in my mind. We opened up a jar last weekend – oh my goodness – they were good! I had added Thai Chilies, lots of sliced garlic, lemon peel and coriander seed to the brine. The recipe below (made from the referenced link below) made enough to pickle 1 case of olives and resulted in 24 x 16 oz jars of olives. The link to the original recipe from the University of California, Department of Agriculture on “Olives: Safe Methods for Home Pickling” by Sylvia Yada and Linda J. Harris (working from the original publication by George York and Reese Vaughn – got to give credit where credit is due, legalities and all) is here – http://ucanr.edu/datastoreFiles/234-2104.pdf. It is a good read and contains other methods of pickling olives as well. Thanks for the link Joe!

Pickling Brine (scaled down from the original recipe)
1/2 cup pickling or kosher salt
4l of cool water
3/4 cup white pickling vinegar (I used Heinz brand)

Spices and flavorings – these were my choices
½ tsp coriander seed per jar – 12 tsp total
24 bay leaves
60 cloves of garlic, roughly sliced – these taste amazing when pickled
24 lemon peels – about 4-5 whole lemons – wash them first, dry them and use a potato peeler to get just the yellow peel off the lemons
40 Thai chilies or a combination of Thai and Jalapeno – sliced/chopped (optional – but try a few jars with them)

Fill your clean sink with cool water and wash the olives a couple of times, drain and fill with water
Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a 2 cup measuring cup, gently smash the olives to crack them in half – this exposes the insides and allows the water to extract the bitterness from the flesh
Place the olives in a clean plastic pail and cover with 2” of cool water. If the olives are floating to the top (and some will), cover with a plate and weigh it down so the olives stay submerged. If you don’t it causes oxidation as when you crack the olives you bruise the skin. It just looks nicer without the brown spots
Change this water by draining once a day for the next 7 days – as a test, take a bite of the olives each day to see how the bitterness. Be prepared, it is bitter!
On the 7th day, taste the olives – it should have a fresh taste with no bitterness – if there is still some bitterness, then repeat the changing water process for another day until there is no discernable bitter taste in the olive
When the bitter taste has disappeared
Wash the jars and lids with soap and water and rinse clean – we used the dishwasher for this, it sterilized the jars
Make the brine:
Combine the water and salt and stir until the salt has melted
Add the vinegar and stir – that’s it
Get your spices/flavorings ready, one bowl with lemon peel, one with garlic etc.
Arrange the jars in rows/columns
Add the spices/flavorings to each jar – I started with half the quantity of the spices of each jar at the bottom of the jar, filled and pressed the olives until half way, then added the remaining quantity of spices allotted for the jar and topped with more olives
The key is to jam the olives into the jar, pressing down as you add more – I also used a funnel with a wide bottom to add olives to the jar
Once you have filled the jars with olives, pour the brine into each jar ensuring it covers the contents of the jar
Place the lids on and place the jars in the refrigerator – leave undisturbed for 4 days
Olives are ready on the 5th day – they taste better with age but you should have a tasty treat on the 5th day
These olives are not salty like store bought olives, but boy are they flavorful
As always – enjoy!