What are Salt Cured Olives?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Salt cured olives are olives which have been treated and preserved with salt. Salt curing is one of several curing options for olives, and one of the oldest and most traditional. There are a number of styles of salt cured olives which can be used in a variety of ways, and many markets carry one or two versions of salted olives. For people with access to fresh olives, salt cured olives can also be made at home relatively easily.

An olive grove.
An olive grove.

This cure works best on black olives, although the olives can be of any size. To salt cure olives, the olives are simply covered in non-iodized salt and allowed to sit in a cool, dry place for up to four weeks. To promote drainage of fluids from the olives, the container may be lined with cloth or dotted with small holes, and the olives must be stirred periodically so that they do not sit in their own juices.

Salt.
Salt.

As the salt curing proceeds, it draws out the bitterness common to fresh olives, and softens the olives up so that they can be eaten. However, salt curing doesn't leach out all of the bitterness, and it tends to concentrate the olive flavorings, generating a slightly salty, bitter, tart end product which some people find a little bit too intense.

Salt curing often works best with black olives.
Salt curing often works best with black olives.

After four weeks, salt cured olives are typically rinsed in warm water to remove the salt and allowed to dry completely before being packed in oil or repacked in salt. Repacking preserves the olives for a longer period of time, while packing in oil generates olives which are ready to use. Oil-packed olives can also be seasoned with herbs and spices.

Salt curing helps reduce the bitterness often associated with fresh olives.
Salt curing helps reduce the bitterness often associated with fresh olives.

When making salt cured olives at home, cooks should be aware that mold can become an issue. To reduce the risk of mold, the olives should be thoroughly covered in salt during the curing process, and stirred frequently. After the olives are rinsed and packed in oil, they should be kept under refrigeration, and they should be used within a month. Plain salt packed olives will still require periodic turning, and they should be stored in a cool, dry place. They will keep for one to three months, depending on climate and storage conditions.

Salt cured olives are often served plain as snacks, but they can also be baked into breads, included in various dishes, and used as a garnish. Cooks should be aware of the somewhat bitter flavor: salt cured olives do not make a good replacement for other olive types in recipes, since the intensity of the flavor can become overwhelming.

Rustic French chicken stew with salt-cured olives and potatoes.
Rustic French chicken stew with salt-cured olives and potatoes.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Wisedly33

My husband despises olives, but I like them. I got hold of some salt cured ones and I thought he was going to croak when he tried one! I was afraid he was going to throw up in the garbage can.

They are strong, no doubt, but they do have a certain addictive quality. I have to be careful though, since I do have to watch my sodium intake.

Scrbblchick

The Earth Fare grocery store has an olive bar and one of their specialties is salt and oil cured olives. Both are pretty good, if you like olives. I like black olives better than green ones, so I think they're all right.

I think olives do best with cheese, if you're doing an appetizer/antipasti dish. A nice cheese really complements the flavor of the olives, as well as mellowing it a little. Pretty tasty.

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