By John Weldon

    My olive tree is too tall. To pick this year’s blackest and shiniest olives, which of course were at the very top of the beast, I needed a very long extension ladder – great fun on a windy day. Even with that, I still had to resort to surgery, lopping off the top two metres in order to pick the fruit. The tree looks a bit like a dog’s breakfast right now, but a good prune will see it right.

    Long story short, I ended up with about 25 kilos of black olives and 12 of green. Way too many for me to deal with. I offered them for free on the socials, but no one took me up, which was a surprise. I thought people would jump at the chance to get their hands on a few kilos of prime kalamatas. Maybe too many others, like me, have long and bitter memories of great harvests inexplicably turned to mush during the curing process.

    With no choice other than to cure them all I headed back to the socials for sure fire recipes. The green olives I was told, by friends and several earnest websites, could be best cured in lye. Yes, that’s right lye – caustic soda. I didn’t believe them either. I still don’t. I followed the recipe religiously but all I ended up with were two buckets of soapy, mushy mess and a heart full of guilt over the loss of so many olives. I’m not going to post a link to a recipe here, but if you have or find a good lye curing process, I’d love to know about it.

    Of course, as soon as you’ve ruined your batch of green olives, people come out of the woodwork with advice. One of the best pieces being to head to Costante Imports in Preston ( for olive curing paraphernalia and advice. Next time…

    I decided to cure half the black olives in brine and half in salt (recipe links below). So far so good. Almost three weeks in (with several more to go) and the brining olives are pootling along nicely. The salted ones though are my favourite so far. The salt dries them and leaches the bitterness out of them. I’ve tasted a couple and they’re almost ready. My Turkish friend Yildiz swears by this method, the only difference being she doesn’t prick the olives before salting. Could have saved myself a good few hours had I known that earlier.

    I went with this recipe from Mount Zero olives for the brining. A friend whose olives always taste great recommended it to me:

    If you’re going to follow this salting recipe, you could try not pricking the olives as per the advice from Yildiz above. It’ll save you time and you won’t have hands stained the colour of a good Rutherglen Shiraz for the next fortnight:

    If you find a cure that works for you, let me know. 

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