black olives, how to brine-cure?
those of you who have successfully brine-cured black olives in the past, a few questions;
--when is the best time to harvest the olives?
--what is a good ratio for brine?
--if I'm getting moldy olives, does that mean my brine isn't strong enough?
--how long to do the brine?
--how large of a container to brine in?
--any cure to soggy texture?
--what is the best flavoring?
Not specific to your question, but I just finished reading an article that said that 'sodium hydroxide' is used to make green olives black.
I'd never heard that before, but now I see that one does not have to make green olives black, but they grow on the tree black.
Darn, it would be confusing when one goes to buy black olives to know whether they are initially black, or a sodium hydroxide'd made black olive.
Always curious about this type of thing.
I think the sodium hydroxided ones are the spongy, aluminum-flavoured ones that come in a can (they have the consistency of green olives). The naturally black ones are kind of greyish or purplish when you bite into them and tend to softer and meatier (kalamata olives, for example). There also tends to be more variety in the skin colour -- if you look at a jar of tree-ripened black olives, some have a purple tint, some have a brown tint etc. The fake ones are more consistently black, with a slighter brownish-grey on the inside. Really, though, the test is the taste. Real black olives taste rich and olivey and slightly bitter. Fake black olives taste like aluminum can (even ones I've bought from supermarket olive bars seem to taste like the can...)
I did olives last year for the first time. I found that the best time to pick black olives is when they are fully black but still firm. There should still be a number of green olives on the tree as well, but they should be outnumbered (I picked and cured both).
Instead of measuring ratio, I added salt to the water until an egg just barely floated. Someone else can probably offer a more specific method.
Mold is best stopped with secure covering, but a bit of mold on top is normal. As long as the mold is growing on the surface of the brine and not the olives themselves, you can just skim it off. Make sure the olives are fully submerged and if mold seems to be a problem, you can switch out the brine with fresh stuff. I made the mistake of adding more salt when I first saw mold on top and my olives came out way too salty.
Your container should be big enough that all of your olives can be fully submerged (I pressed mine down with a plate).
I left my olives in the saltwater brine for several months and then moved them to various vinegar and other acid based brines for extra flavouring (and too leach out all that extra salt I added). Red wine vinegar was a particularly good match for black olives, as was garlic and rosemary.
As far as I can tell, the best cure for mushy olives is to turn them into tapenade.
All of that said, my favourite olives by far were my water-cured green olives in orange and lemon juice. I soaked the olives in plain water for about a month, draining and changing the water every day. Then I soaked them in a brine for two days, then a mixture of orange and lemon juice for another two days. Now they're sitting in a half brine/half orange-lemon juice mixture and they're amazingly delicious. I plan on trying the water cure method on black olives next time I get some (although I'll probably use red wine vinegar and rosemary instead of the orange-lemon mix in the final stages).
Also, salt-cured olives are by far the quickest and easiest. Cut slits in your olives, cover them completely with Kosher salt and stir them up every three days, making sure they stay completely covered with salt. Eat them when they're wrinkly and taste good (it took about a month for me).