I never have any doubts about the success of the olives I pickle. They always seem to work and they taste different from year to year.
This is a photo of the jars of olives in my pantry.
There are last year’s olives (2020) and they are ready to eat having spent one year in the pickling solution.
There are two batches of this year’s olives: those in the small jar and red lid are from my small tree on my balcony. This year there were not many olives on my tree. The two large jars of dark coloured olives I collected from a wild tree on Hindmarsh Island in South Australia.
I often experiment when I preserve my olives. The standard procedure is to soak them in fresh water for 8-10 days and changing the water daily, then placing the drained olives in a sterilised jar and covering them in brine. Making sure that the olives are submerged and topping them with a little olive oil to help prevent mould is essential.
As you can see on the red lid, this year’s olives (collected in April from my small tree on my balcony) are in a solution of extra virgin olive oil and brine drained from a jar of preserved lemons that I made earlier in the year and are ready to use. I have used some of the lemons and some of that brine has gone into the olives, together with a 1/2 tablespoon of salt, just to make sure that they do not go off.
Last year’s olives – 2020 – were only soaked in fresh water for 3 days. I was going away and the olives needed to be collected and treated so I used a greater amount of brine , ie 3/4 amount of brine and 1/4 mixture of extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. For brine = 2 tablespoons of salt in boiling water, fully dissolved and allowed to cool. On this occasion I also added some dry fennel seeds.
In the latest pickling I used ripe but firm olives collected in the wild on Hindmarsh Island in South Australia. I usually do not pickle ripe olives and dry them instead. These olives however were very firm and so I went through the pickling process of soaking them in fresh water for 10 days and changing the water daily . I then pickled them with roughly equal amounts of extra virgin olive oil, wine vinegar (red or white) and brine – 2 tablespoons of salt in boiling water, fully dissolved and allowed to cool. Salt is cheap so don’t skimp on brine. Add as much oil and vinegar first and then top up with Brine.
Ensure that there is sufficient salt in the brine. Extra virgin olive oil and vinegar are also preservatives and will add flavour as well.
It is important to keep the olives submerged so those little plastic circular gadgets are very handy. My collection are from jars of Italian preserves I have bought over the years. Depending on the size of your jar , you can add a small saucer on top, or some other sort of mesh, to keep the olives submerged underneath the brine.
I never use fresh herbs or garlic as these can cause the pickling solution to go off.
I do add different ingredients to dress the pickled olives I am about to eat. Any fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary, fresh bay leaves are favourites, and /or garlic, grated orange or lemon peel, preserved lemon and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.
As the mood takes me I also like to keep pickled olives with flavours steeped in oil to keep on the fridge. I add whole peppercorns, fennel seeds, dry oregano , chilli flakes, even whole star anise to the drained pickled olives.
Any of the above can also be added to commercially pickled olives and adding fresh good extra virgin olive oil will make a difference and your version is bound to taste better than some of the commercially dressed olives.