After letting the 10 pounds of olives soak for a little more than 2 weeks, about two thirds of them seem like they are ready for the next step. I sat down Saturday morning and sorted them into new buckets: two buckets of the darker green, slightly softer and usually sinking olives, then one bucket of lighter green olives that tended to float. I’m not sure if the sink/not sink method is foolproof, but that was my main focus after trying to judge color for half an hour. The light green olives are almost completely unchanged from their original shade, leading me to believe they’ve not done much leeching just yet.
There wasn’t much difference between the smashed and cut olives as far as number of sinkers. I was also impressed to find almost half of the untouched olives had progressed to the dark green sinking stage. I really had expected to have to covert that bucket into using one of the other methods before I could actually use the olives.
I tried to make the two dark green olive buckets about even in quantity, as I have a total of three different recipes I wanted to try. One of these buckets is still sitting downstairs with olives in it, except now it isn’t just water – its a 10% salt solution! For this I measured out a gallon of water (I haven’t been measuring during the leech phase because it hasn’t matter) and added a pound of kosher salt. The water is salty enough to make an egg float – that was my test. I added the salt in 4oz increments so as not to waste or over salt and it wasn’t until I hit the 16oz mark that the egg floated. When I added the olives, they also floated – in fact, they floated so well that when I put the dinner plate in to weigh them down, they held it on the surface! I gave it a little gentle encouragement, though, and down it went. These olives will rest for three or four days, until none of them float… then there is another multi-day resting step!
The other bucket of dark olives was slated for a slightly quicker recipe. I boiled the jars in a big stockpot of water, just to make sure they were clean. In the meantime, I prepared the ingredients for the brine. I was supposed to have “fresh savory” but I could find any. Instead, I decided to make two different brines with two different herbs. The recipe called for fresh thyme, so I decided that would be one of the two, whereas I’d substitute fresh dill for the thyme in the other batch. Each of them have the following: black peppercorn (whole), coriander seed (whole), fennel seeds (instead of “fresh flowering fennel heads”), and a bit of orange peel. Of course each of them got a healthy dose of course sea salt as well. You can’t brine without salt, right? 🙂
The ingredients were brought to a boil (making a wonderful smell in the house), then simmered for 15 minutes and finally left to cool. By the time this was in the cooling phase, the jars had been boiling for several minutes, so I removed them to cool. Unlike the canning process, I’m not looking to create a vacuum, so I could let them cool off. After everything was relatively cool, I brought the olives in and began packing them into the jars. I initially thought I’d spread them loosely across 4 jars, but then I realized that I only had 2 quarts of brine for 4 one quart jars! I then packed the olives tightly into as few jars as possible – obviously three.
Into the first jar, I poured the thyme brine, making sure to scoop some the seeds/corns into the jar along with the springs of thyme. Once it was filled to the top, I found I had some left over – which I was thankful for, considering I had a 3rd quart jar to fill later! I sat aside the remainder, then filled the next jar with the dill brine. Again, I scooped some of the spices into the jar along with the springs of dill. Finally, I combined the leftover brines and filled the third jar, this time pushing all the remaining spices in, along with the orange peels. Now the recipe didn’t mention if these things should go into the jar, but it only makes sense to me, at this point, that I’d want the actual ingredients in there to continue providing flavor.
These jars have to rest in the fridge for a week before they are supposed to be palatable. I’m sure this will come as quite a disappointment to Sheila, as she’ll be visiting this week, but leaving before their time is up! Knowing her, though, she’ll dig into a couple of them before she leaves… 🙂
I’ll provide another update when I move the other bucket to the next stage and/or when I taste these particular olives. The whole olive curing set of photos is stored on Flickr.