Kalamata-Style Home Cured Olives

20180122_153844A few years ago I was doing some last minute birthday shopping for the Old Man at a local hardware supply store.  Lo and behold, I stumbled across something I knew he would want (like, really want): a Kalamata olive tree.

20180120_094029Not only does he like the olives, but the tree itself was something he had been wanting to add to our growing, edible landscape.  Both of us have family heritage that traces back to the Mediterranean and the Middle East, so how could we not have an olive tree in our yard?!  Sacrilege!

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20180120_094139The tree has grown quickly, and this was the first year we got a real harvest of olives from it.  So this was also the year I got a crash course in curing homemade Kalamata olives!  My biggest problem was how to do this.  There are a variety of methods that would work for these kinds of olives, but many of them involved a lot of water use in such a way that the water is now useless.  I just have a hard time with that, given the severity of drought we have been experiencing in California.

20180120_094519Olives taste pretty horrible untreated, and most curing methods have you use repeated soakings with fresh batches of salt water or caustic lye to leach out the nasty tasting compounds.  That salt/lye water can’t get reused, nor can it go in your yard, and if you flush it down the drain you’ve made it harder for water treatment facilities to filter the water for ground water recharge.

20180120_112135Thankfully, I found information that came from the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources that provided instructions for a home curing method perfect for my Kalamata olives or any other kind of black olives.  The drained water is safe to go either in your garden or down the drain.  The process is also ridiculously easy and you have olives ready to go in just a few short weeks.


Kalamata-Style Home Cured Olives Recipe



  • Large jars or buckets that are food safe, preferably with a spigot at the bottom.  The size and quantity of your containers will depend on how many olives your tree (or source) produces.  I was able to use just a few gallon-sized beverage jars this year, but I will need a larger set-up as my tree gets bigger.

    Update: I purchased two of these beverage dispensers from an online restaurant supply.  They are BPA free, and rated for food use, and are 5 gallons each.  That should do for now!
  • Sterilized canning jars and lids (read my article on Food Canning, especially if you are new to the process)
  • Water
  • Canning Salt or pure Sea Salt; avoid salt that has non-caking ingredients added as they will discolor your brine
  • Red-wine vinegar

You will need to process your olives very shortly after harvesting them.  They will not last long once picked and become more at risk of spoiling during processing.  Start by washing them thoroughly.  Rinse them in a colander and allow the water to drain, then follow it up by soaking and swishing them around in water in a large bowl and drain the water off again.  Clean olives means less risk of contamination and trips to the hospital.

Using a sharp knife, slit each olive once lengthwise, nearly to the pit.  Place the cut olives into your large container.  Once the container is full of the cut olives, fill the container with water and place a clean object (like a plate or bowl) on top to keep the olives submerged.  If your container has a narrow neck, you don’t need to worry as much about keeping the olives submerged.  Cover the container loosely with a lid.  Put the containers someplace cool and out of direct sunlight.  Keep track of the date you first soak your olives.

After 24 hours, drain the olives.  Fill the containers with water, gently swish the olives around, then drain again.  Refill the containers with water, submerge any olives, loosely cover and return them to where you were storing them before.  Repeat this process for the next 10 to 20 days.  You will want to taste them after 10 days to see if they have lost enough bitterness for you.  The longer they soak, the less bitter they will be, but also the less flavor they will have.

20180120_112414After your last soak date, prepare the brine solution.  For every gallon of water used, dissolve 1 pound of salt, 1 quart of red-wine vinegar, and mix thoroughly together.  **Fill your sterilized canning jars with olives and then completely cover with the brine.  Give the jars a gentle shaking to make sure no bubbles of air have been trapped.  Top each jar with a 1/4 inch layer of olive oil.  This will create an air-tight seal, so make sure that the oil completely covers any floating olives sticking out of the brine.  Any leftover brine can be stored in the freezer, pretty much indefinitely.  It’s just salt and vinegar in water, so there is nothing that will deteriorate.  You will notice that it may not freeze solid, this is due to the salt content but it’s not a problem.

**You could also put your olives into larger containers and cover them with the brine and oil, and store them that way.  The containers you used for the leaching process, once cleaned thoroughly, are suitable.  You would then remove whatever amount of olives you wanted each time, and the rest could remain.  This is how it was done in the village.  You just need to be sure to have a layer of oil covering the top as described above.  I used smaller jars this time so that I could give some away (maybe!).** Update: I have some 1 gallon sized screw-top jars that I will be using to store my olives rather than several smaller jars, as it will be more efficient with the amount of brine and olive oil needed.

Set the jars aside in a cool, dark place or refrigerator.  Allow them to cure for at least a month before eating, so keep track of the date they were first covered in the brine.  According to the University of California Div. of Agriculture and Natural Resources, these olives can be safely stored for up to a year, either in a cool, dark location, or in the refrigerator, as long as the olives remain submerged under the oil.  That’s of course assuming that you will have any left!

You will, of course, have leftover olive “brine juice” in your jars once all the olives are consumed.  A quick internet search will lead you to a variety of options, including using it with olive oil as a salad dressing, adding it to a pasta sauce, or even saving it up and using it for brining meats (I now have a recipe for brined pork chops and oooohhhhh mmmyyyyy, were they good!).  I’ve even used it to help sooth a sore throat by gargling with it.  The salt and acidity help to draw out extra water from your tissues and temporarily reduces swelling.  Give it a whirl!


25 thoughts on “Kalamata-Style Home Cured Olives

  1. Hi,
    Interesting idea and I want to try.
    I live in northern rural Việt Nam and have a variety of black olive by the name of Chinese black olive (at least that’s what the Vietnamese translates to). Do you think this might work? They are ripe as I type this. Also I do no have access to red wine vinegar. Will white wine vinegar work? Nobody here knows anything about pickling olives, so I’m kinda in a void here.
    Cheers and thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Greetings from the other side of the world! I think this process should work just fine for preserving any type of olive. The flavor may not be exactly the same since each olive variety does have slightly different tastes, but that’s okay. Using the white vinegar should also work, because the pH is about the same and that is what keeps them from spoiling (oddly, it’s not really the salt), but the flavor will be altered. If you have a seasoned rice wine vinegar available, that may be a better choice in terms of taste. Also, if you don’t have olive oil for topping the jars, you can use any other vegetable oil. The goal with that is just to create a barrier between the liquid and the air to prevent spoiling. I hope this helps!


  2. Thank you for writing this post!

    It encourages us to grow our own olives and allow us to really know what’s in what we eat.

    I am intolerant to many spices that are made from nuts or seeds, and the ingredients list of many store-bought olives include unspecified spices.

    For that reason we’re great fans of Parthenon organic Kalamata olives, which are sometimes carried by our local Costco. This particular brand is one of the few that does NOT add unspecified spices.

    Growing and preparing our own olives which will free us from the vagaries of the local Costco buyer’s choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely understand about wanting to know what is in the food we eat. I happen to be intolerant of garlic powder and onion powder. I know, weird for a Greek! Dried garlic and onion pieces and raw doesn’t bother me, but the powder is just too intense and really upsets my intestinal track.


  3. I appreciate your post here. I wasn’t aware at how simple the recipe really was.
    I used to live in Northern as well as Southern California and loved Kalamatas on my salads. 23 years ago I moved to Spain and they have many types of wonderful olives. Unfortunately, there are not really any Spanish olives prepared like Greek Kalamata olives that I have encountered for the Spanish tradition. Thanks again, for your post. I am going to prepare some 15kg of olives today.
    Cheers! Rich M. in Madrid

    Liked by 1 person

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