Saturday, October 25, 2014

Homemade Olives

Did you know there's olive groves in Osaka? Neither did I. A few weeks ago, Ritsuko found fresh olives at a local farmers market and bought a small bag on a whim.

Olives are pretty much inedible when fresh, so you have to pickle them in brine. There's lots of recipes on the net, and they all vary quite a lot. That's a good thing; it usually means that the details don't really matter too much.

Fresh olives are very bitter, so first you need to soak them to remove that flavour. We cut the olives in top and bottom and put them in a jar. We poured a brine of 1 part salt to 8 parts water (by weight) in the jar, then used a small glass lid as a weight to  keep the olives below the surface.

Our olives just after the second pickling.

It's been two weeks now, and the olives have turned a muted olive green and the brine has turned brown. We strained the olives and washed them in fresh water. The bitterness is gone and there's a faint but definite olive flavour. But they're still kind of raw and crunchy, so we put them back in a clean jar, mixed another batch of brine and added two halved cloves of garlic and one sliced dried chili. Top up with olive oil as a "lid" to avoid contact with air, then put the jar back in the closet again.

The major worry is that they will spoil. If they don't, they should be edible in about two months or so, just in time for the year-end holidays. I'm looking forward to trying them.


  1. In Spain, every olive tree grower has his/her own recipe. I come from the cold high plateau (no olive trees survive there) so neither myself nor anybody in my family pickles olives, but by talking to some friends it seems that thyme and garlic are big favorites to add to the brine.
    And lots of patience ;-)

    Lycka till!

  2. Hi Miguel! Yes, I considered adding herbs as well. But it's the first time, so we figure we want to see what it's like without. Next time - if we find fresh olives for sale again - we'll be a bit more adventurous.

    Tack så mycket!

  3. I have an olive tree in the backyard and we just give them to friends who want to pickle them. We tried once, and the jars just lingered on the kitchen. However, it's a smaller variety that's very good for oil rather than eating.

    I live on the Spanish Mediterranean coast and we got plenty of great wine as well. But I never warmed up to the taste of either one.

    Feel a little guilty really. If you lived next door you'd have plenty of olives.

  4. Jordi, one of our main regrets today is that we don't have a garden. The climate here is really great for any plants, and there's so much we wanted to grow if only we could. If you have a yard large enough for an olive tree then we're really, really envious.

    Please consider growing something you like, then enjoying it completely fresh from your own yard. That is the one thing I really miss from Sweden.

  5. Very true. I live 50km from Barcelona, in a summer holiday town, and commute every day (90min per way).
    Not as convenient, people view me as if I were some epic knight due to "my perilious long daily journey" and it's made me miss quite a few dinners with friends... But much more quality of life (nature, nice views from the balcony, fresh air, quietness, etc).
    It's almost November but with the warm weather, its as if it were spring.
    Lovely and wish I didn't have classes some days for enjoying the town.

    My dad plants vegetables each season (I should eat more of them...) and lots of flowers of mom.
    I'm not the cook type yet, but one day I thought about mixing a drink for a friend, visiting him in his city, and I wondered where I could get fresh mint without the garden!

    And frankly, I've never lived in a city. Only stayed recently for a night out with my friend.

  6. I've never lived anywhere but cities of various sizes. Frankly, I suspect I'd get bored by the countryside after a while.

  7. If you ever visit Shodoshima, which I recommend, the island has large numbers of olive groves, planted as part of early 20th-century modernization. (Don't bother with the olive-oil flavoured icecream, though.)

  8. Claire, not a bad idea. It's close enough to be a day trip. Should broach the idea to my wife. I believe you about the ice cream :/


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