This article is from the Food Preserving FAQ, by Eric Decker firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
Nothing I like better than a home cured olive, and they are very
easy to make. All that's required is patience, yer olives, a rolling pin or
a paring knife, canning salt and a non-reactive container.
You can cure olives at nearly any stage, but the really tiny green ones
aren't worth it. Green olives are green colored; red ripe olives have a
reddish 'blush' to them (if you have olives, you know what I mean); black
(or dead) ripe olives are deep black throughout. Just make sure that the
black ripe olives are still firm, and don't cure 'drops', olives that have
fallen to the ground. You've got several choices, depending on your cur-
iousity and your fanaticism.
Generally you water cure the big green ones, right before they turn red.
You pick the olives, crack each of them with a rolling pin, then immerse
them completely in cold water, changing the water *each* day for at least
25 days. Stir them up when you think about it. Immerse and change the
water, etc, taste one after 25 days. If they are too bitter, keep up this
regime until they are edible.
Brine cured red-ripe or black-ripe olives are Greek-style; brine cured green
olives are Sicilian style. The red-ripe olives generally turn a grey green
to pink, while the black-ripe ones keep their color, becoming a Kalamata-deep
purple. Again, you pick the olives, or you shake the tree over a tarp, and
collect the olives. Deeply slit each one using a sharp paring knife, then
plunk them into a brine (brine is 1/4 cup pickling salt in 1 qt water).
Weight down the olives, make sure they are fully immersed. Cover your vat
of olives, stir once in awhile, wait one week. Rinse, and change the olive
brine once/week for at least 3 weeks. Taste, if still too bitter, keep
changing brine 1/week. Mine usually take about 6 weeks. Scum will form on
the top of the vat; its harmless *if* olives are immersed, but get rid of it
when you see it.
Lye curing. (No fanaticism necessary)
You always lye cure green olives. If you bubble air through the lye solution,
those green olives turn black; the California black olive is born. You pick
the olives, clean them. Save a few of your biggest olives for the top of
your vat. Immerse all those olives in a lye solution (2 tablespoons flake
lye in 1 qt water) for 12 hours. Dispose of lye solution, reimmerse olives
again in new lye solution for 12 more hours. Take and cut into some of your
largest olives to see if the lye penetrated the olive (olive will be soft to
the pit, easy to cut to the pit, and the flesh will be yellowish green when
ready). Soak olives in water for 3 days, changing the water at least 3-4
times/day. Taste an olive on the fourth day. Should taste sweet and fatty,
with no bitterness, a little like a tiny avocado. Immerse for 1 week in a
light brine, about 6 Tbs salt in gallon of water.
***Lye is nasty, remember to wear rubber gloves, use lemon juice or vinegar
to neutralize lye burns, and your olive vat shouldn't be plastic.***
Can also make marinades for your cured olives, good flavors/herbs to use in
various combinations are: garlic, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, dried chiles,
fennel seed, peppercorns, coriander seed, orange peel, lemon peel, lemon
slices, cumin seed.