Foraging Olives is a Win-Win
This messy problem makes olive tree owners who didn’t spray their trees much more open to allowing (or begging) foragers to harvest the olives on their trees. Many people don’t know how to process olives, and therefore most olive trees are left to simply drop the fruit.
Let me help you with that. I LOVE olives. I’ve tried several methods in the past and have only had great success with salt-cured olives. This year, I found a simple brining method from the wonderful people at Milkwood in Tasmania. I am super eager to try. There is no cutting, smashing or even lye involved. I hope you try it with me.
These olives are wrinkled and dry with a taste is intense and addictive.
- Harvest olives that are dark purple or black
- Rinse olives to clean.
- Choose a container and layer salt, olives, salt until full.
- Put a lid on the olives and shake the jar every other day. The salt will draw out the water so moisture will dissolve some of the salt.
- The olives will become wrinkled and salty. After 3 weeks, test for taste.
- When they are finished, rinse the olives, allow to dry and then store in olive oil or air tight container.
This first step is for leaching out the bitter components of olives.
- Harvest all the olives you want. They can be green, purple, or black, as long as they are plump and firm.
- Fill your container of olives (I’m using a bucket) with fresh water to cover.
- Drain the water and refill every other day for 2-4 weeks. After the final drain you are ready to brine.
This second step is for adding more flavor and sweetness to the olives.
- Fill your brining container 1/3 full of water.
- Weigh the water and measure salt in a separate container. You want to have your salt weigh 10% of the weight of the water. (10 pounds of water to 1 pound of salt).
- You can boil some of the water to dissolve the salt quickly if you like. Then add it to the larger amount of water.
- Once all the salt is dissolved in the water, add the olives. You can do this in the bucket or a variety of jars. It will be in this container for 2 months to a year. You can do a taste test after 2 months. Once they are no longer bitter, they are done.
- Finally, drain the olives, allow them to dry, and store them in olive oil, 50% vinegar solution, or new 10% brine. Add seasonings to taste.
- Seal in airtight jars and store in the refrigerator or cool, dark pantry.
There is another thing we can do with foraged olives, but it will take some research and different equipment. I’m talking about OLIVE OIL. Yes, you can press your own olives to get oil. I have a friend who made an olive press with a 5 gallon bucket, but she did say that it was pretty challenging.
Another option I have heard of is taking your buckets of olives to a mill like the Queen Creek Olive Mill in Queen Creek, Arizona. They will have a quota to be met, but it’s possible. One of my exchange students from Italy said that every year his grandfather would pick all the olives from their olive grove and take them to a mill to be pressed. I’m so glad that we have the same opportunity here.