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Sep 7, 2006 08:54 PM

Have you "lyed" fresh olives?

We have two great olive trees that produce quite a bit of fruit. I have been meaning to cure them for years, but am reluctant because of the use of drain cleaner...LYE. If you have done this before, can you encourage or discourage me from this venture. TIA

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  1. I haven't cured olives with lye probably for the same reasons you are reluctant, but have cured them for several years in salt brine and I would encourage you to try it. It takes a lot longer than lye, but the results are terrific and you don't have to deal with drain cleaner, except for a clogged drain ;-)

    1. My father in-law uses lye and they taste really not-good-for you. As in toxic. He also uses salt brine. I prefer those, though they're pretty bland. Big green salty hard things, actually. But maybe you can do better! Good luck.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Glencora

        I have tried salt brining olive 2-3 times and never came out with anything resembling an olive I would want to eat. I tried cracking them, or not. One batch I must have soaked for 5 months in very salty brine and still they never turned into anything you would want to eat.

      2. Back when I was in college at UC Davis, I lye cured many a bucket of olives for a professor I worked for. The olives are soaked in the lye to remove the bitterness - we would use a phenlyalalnine solution dropped on the cut surface of the olive to see how far the lye penetrated. The phenylalanine turns pink if lye is present so we would look for a pink ring just to the pit. After the lye removes the bitterness you soak the olives in a series of clean water to remove the lye (done over a course of 2-3 days.) We would cut open the olives and drop some phenylalanine on the olive to see if all the lye soaked out. Then we would soak the olives in a brine solution. Sometimes we would then ferment them to make them sour. The whole process took 1-2 weeks depending on the variety and temperature.

        These days I am much more fascinated with the dry salt curing method. I haven't tried this but one of these days...

        1. Think of it like using soap on your dishes. Yes there will be residue but well within the realm of control. Odd tastes are inexcusable and will not occur after proper rinsing.

          After rinsing the flavor can be enhanced by brine including various flavoring agents (garlic, bay, thyme, pepper, chili flake). Not all olives are created equal in terms of flavor and care should be taken to make sure they are tree ripe.

          Oliveto in Oakland CA has made an art of curing olives.

          1. Idiotic question, I'm sure, but do you need to cure olives before pressing them to make olive oil? Is homemade olive oil feasible?

            1 Reply
            1. re: David Kahn

              olives are picked fresh and pressed within 24-48 hours. Ususally, a large stone is used. Don't know how you'd press small amounts of fruit.