How To Make Oil Cured Olives (Elies)

This is the world’s easiest way to cure olives, and it’s fun! Here’s the gist of it: Put fresh, ripe olives in a pillowcase with an equal weight of salt. Hang outside. Shake up every day or two. When edible, rinse and pack in oil. It’s as easy as that. And let me tell you, a pillowcase full of olives and salt hanging in your yard is one of the more interesting conversation pieces you can have. By the way, the description “oil cured” is a bit of a misnomer; these olives are actually salt cured and then packed in oil.

Pillowcase full of olives and salt hanging from tree branch.
You need a source for fresh, uncured olives. I have a few olive trees, so that’s where I got mine. Before my olive trees had begun bearing, I managed to locate a house not too far away with several old olive trees in front, and got the homeowner’s permission to harvest some in exchange for bringing her some of the cured olives. You may be able to find fresh olives at a farmers market if you live in the right sort of climate. There are also olive suppliers to be found online, for example Penna Olives. (Note: I have never ordered olives, so I cannot vouch for this or any other supplier.)

The olives should be black and ripe. Mama says that this type of olive cure is usually used on the ripe olives that fell to the ground. But you can just as well pick black olives off a tree to use, although they take a bit longer to cure than windfall fruit.

If you want to be totally rustic, historical, and picturesque you also need a burlap sack. I use a pillowcase instead, which does just as well. Rinse the olives in a colander and pick out any leaves or twigs. Let them drain a bit, then put them in the pillowcase with an approximately equal weight of salt. Hang the pillow case from a tree branch, and gloat about having delicious olives that don’t cost $10 per pound. You should shake up the olives every day, but honestly, I often forget for a few days and it doesn’t matter. A bit of rain won’t hurt them. If you get a lot of rain, you should check the amount of salt. Ideally there will be enough to cover the olives, and if there’s not, you should add some more.

The olives can take anywhere from a week to a month or more to cure, most likely closer to a month, but it depends. How can you tell when they’re done? You taste test them as they gradually shrivel up. For a long time they will be so bitter that you’ll be sorry you tasted them! Then they’ll start to be less bitter and more fruity, and finally they’ll be really good. If you’re not sure what they should taste like, get some oil cured olives from the grocery store to compare.

When they taste right, you’re ready to pack them. Some sources suggest putting them in fresh salt to store. I usually rinse off the salt and let the olives dry, then put them in a container and cover them with oil. Unlike brined olives, I keep these in the refrigerator to be on the safe side.

27 Comments »

  1. Comment by Peter

    A great method for curing olives…thank you for sharing!

  2. Comment by lulu

    Hey, Peter, thanks for visiting! :-)

  3. Comment by Becky

    Cool method of curing the olives. My great-grandmother used to make cottage cheese by putting the curds in a feed sack and hanging it from one of the pear tree limbs overnight. Your olives remind me of that and I will try your method next year.

    Becky’s last blog post..It’s Olive Curing Time #3

  4. Comment by Lulu

    Hi Becky! I’ve started hanging all sorts of stuff in sacks and cheesecloth to drain..it’s getting a little creepy around here with all the hanging sacks!

  5. Comment by Becky

    Hey Lulu. Are you posting about all the hanging pillowcases? I remember trying to explain the cottage cheese in the pear tree to my DH. That was pretty hilarious.

    Becky’s last blog post..Pumpkin Pie

  6. Comment by Melissa

    Wow! So excited to find this recipe for making oil cured olives. I have loved them for years, and lately have been buying them at a local Italian market at $@#@$% per pound. Once I find a supplier I’m going to try this.
    Any idea how long they stay “good” in the fridge?

  7. Comment by Lulu

    Melissa, I’m not sure. I’ve got some that are a couple of years old in the fridge, and they haven’t poisoned me yet.

  8. Comment by Marte

    I would like to use fresh garlic with the olives when I pack them into the jars with the oil. Has anyone ever done this? If so, any suggestions?
    Also, I like to put in a Tablespoon or so of Chardonnay with the oil. Any comments for success??
    Thank You. Marte in San Diego, Ca.

  9. Comment by Lulu

    Good questions, Marte. I don’t see any problems with putting some wine in, although you might get more impact by marinating some olives right before you plan to eat them.

    I’d be a little worried about having garlic in the oil unless you eat them pretty quickly, because I’ve always read that homemade garlic-flavored oil must be refrigerated and even then cannot be kept long due to danger of botulism.

  10. Comment by ruth

    thanks for the recipe! what should outside temperature be?? sunlite?

  11. Comment by collin

    I cured olives by washing,then cut a slit with knife,drop into a container with sea-salt and rainwater. Leave for about four weeks. While curing they give off a pleasant ester/sweet aroma and bubbles form - sort of like soda pop.The olives were purple roundish and medium to soft ripeness and about 20mm. diameter.
    I was surprised it took so quick.about 4 weeks.

  12. Comment by John

    I would not hang a salted bag over any soil you want to grow things in if there is a chance of water dripping onto the soil carrying some salt. Conquerors used to salt the enemies fields rendering them unusable.

  13. Comment by Susan

    Getting ready to harvest and cure with this method, but wondering about how much sunlight is o.k., is there an optimum temperature range? We’re in So Cal in the coastal mountains, daytime temps in the 60’s, but nights sometimes in the high ’20’s, and we’re getting lots of rain these days. Should we hang the sack under house eves?

  14. Comment by Wanda

    A friend of my daughter has 15 or more olive trees full of fruit and doesn’t a clue as to what to do. He does not want the olives to go to waste. So now I have a blessing, I am free to come and pick as much as I want… my problem was I didn’t have a clue either. But I love olives! My problem is now solved, thank you.

  15. Comment by James

    These turned out great! I jarred up my first batch from right before thanksgiving, after about 6 weeks. The flavor is amazing! the method is simple, one pound of kosher salt per pound of olives. There is the remnants of an old olive grove along a center median of a residential street here in San Bernardino, so the pickin’s were free, and the un-irrigated fruit was nice and big, from these old trees. Perfectly suited to our mediteranean climate, the Mission olives are to die for. Packed them in EVOO and dried roasted garlic. We have neighbor/friends that are professional chefs, and they wanted to BUY some after tasting a jar! We traded for gourmet seasoning salts and pastries. Thanks so much for the “How To” lesson. I’ve got 10 pounds more, hanging right now!!

  16. Comment by Themis

    thanks a million Lulu

  17. Comment by Lianne

    Great to find this recipe we have some hanging now and I’m wanting to keep them for a number of months - any thoughts??? What type of oil do you cover the olives with when you put them in the fridge given olive oil tends to solidify once cold???

  18. Comment by Chenzo..(Italian for Vince)

    To: Ruth
    I usually add Some diced garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano. I had the good fortune to be related to an Italian Cheese maker, and as child I would often visit their shop, and taste all the homemade stuff, from cheeses to olive mixes.

  19. Comment by MIA PEREZ

    I would like to know how to make the Green Olive (with the pit, or seed , still inside) edible, so that I can eat them with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Greek Oregano, Garlic and Salt & Pepper. I bought some and they need to be “cured” before they are edible. I don’t want the kind full of salt and acidic flavor. Can you help? My email is miavas17@gmail.com. PLZ put in the subject “Olives”. This way I’ll know it is safe to open. Or just reply to mi on this site. Thank You for your help!

  20. Comment by maria

    i grown in the farming areas south europ with plenty olives; using various ways, I liked to give a few cuts around each olive and soak in water changed daily, after seven days looses the biterness and add salt lemon slices and oreganum, delicious. to serve add a litle chilly and choped parsley and or paprica, so good you canot stop eating it. try and let me know. a lot more and good remedies for health problems is my especiality.

  21. Comment by qelina

    Hi there. Just wondering if you can use this method with green olives?

  22. Comment by Moira

    I am very excited to try this method thankyou sooo much

  23. Comment by hannah

    hi there, thanx for all the tips on curing olives! i just want to know if i can pit the olives before hanging it outside with the salt?

  24. Comment by ????????????

    I wanted to post you a bit of observation so as to say thanks again for your personal pleasing opinions you have provided above.

  25. Comment by Anna

    My first year harvesting olives from my tree. They are small and dark/green. Some are green some are both colors and some are purple/black. What can I do with them? They are so tiny. I have some in a abrine solution and waiting for the bitterness to go away.

  26. Comment by Joan webber

    Concerned about storage. How long will the olives be safe when stored in the pantry, in jars, with olive oil? How about canning them? How do we do that? Will roasting the garlic before putting it with the oil make a difference.

  27. Pingback by Cambree Notes » Blog Archive » California’s Ripe Purple Olives

    [...] and must be cured (just like soap) to become the tasty little fruits we all love. I found “Mama’s Tavern” very easy to follow. Of course I haven’t wanted to attempt this as I would need to [...]

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