Several years ago, when we first moved to San Antonio, we visited a farmer’s market and bought a small olive tree from Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard. The woman at the market told us we could keep it in a pot for a year or two, but then it should be planted in the ground. So, a year or so later, we finally planted it and hoped that it would survive.
The tree grew the first year, and the next summer produced a few olives. We found this method for brining them online, and were excited to make our own olives! The next year, the tree produced nothing. The next time we were at the market, we asked about it at the Sandy Oaks booth. It turned out that the variety of olive tree we purchased (Arbequina) only produced olives every-other year. So, the next year, we had a few more olives. But the next year there were olives, too. Maybe our tree is a mutant? And this year, TONS of olives!! The tree branches are bending over with the weight of the fruit this year!
So, since we finally know what we’re doing with the whole harvesting/brining process, I decided I would share it with you! I know you’ll only do this if you happen to also have an olive tree in your yard, but even so – it’s fun!
Method from University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Makes enough for 2.5 lbs of fresh olives
2.5 lbs fresh purple-colored olives, washed
plastic container(s) with lid(s)
1/4 lb pickling salt
4 cups water (I use bottled water)
1 cup red wine vinegar
1. Pick purple-colored olives from olive tree. This is our tree (below), and you can see that some olives are ready (purple), while others aren’t quite there yet.
2. Wash olives with water. With a clean, sharp knife, make a cut in each olive (about 1/8 inch – in my olives this is from skin to pit).
3. Place cut olives in a food-grade plastic container (with a lid), and cover with fresh, cool water. Close the lid and leave the olives to soak in the refrigerator.
4. Every 24 hours (for a total of 7 days), change the water.
5. Make the finish brine. Add 1/4 lb pickling salt to 1 quart (4 cups) fresh water. Stir to dissolve, and add 1 cup red wine vinegar.
6. Drain the water from the olives, and place olives into clean jars. Add one bay leaf to each jar (if desired). Pour the finish brine over the olives, and then top with 1/4 inch of olive oil. Close the container and store in a cool dark place (60-80 degrees F)
7. Allow the olives to marinate for at least 1 month to develop the desired flavor. They usually sink when they are ready to consume.
*Note* After the first month, these can be stored in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator for about 1 year if the container remains airtight.