Pickling Table Olives

Meryl’s method is easy, but not quick. The secret is using fresh olives, they must be prepared within hours of coming off the tree, or at least put under fresh water for a day until you can deal with them. If not they will start to ferment and spoil.

Equipment required :

  • Food grade plastic container with firm fitting lid ( screw top is great) the right size to contain your olives with no gap at the top ( olives must completely fill the container). This may be of any size – depending on the amount of olives you wish to preserve – I have used everything from 2 liters to 1000 liter tubs. Mason jars with metal bands are not suitable, as they are often not airtight, and the metal will rust.
  • Large clean container to mix brine ( I use a 10 liter food grade plastic bucket)
  • Fresh potable water
  • Cooking salt


Part 1 Removing the Bitterness

Sort olives so that you have the same variety and degree of ripeness in each batch, remove any stalks or damaged fruit and discard.

Wash fruit well. Pack tightly into container, making sure it is full to the top.

Mix your brine, at a 1:10, ( or 10%)  salt:water solution – by using the 10 Liter bucket I can add 1 KG of salt without too much measuring. Mix well to ensure that salt is thoroughly dissolved.

Gently pour the brine over the olives till the container is full to overflowing, and then secure the lid, ensuring there are no air bubbles.

Place in a cool dark place ( out of the sunlight). Note there may be some overflow even though the container is firmly sealed, so place a tray underneath to catch any drips.

Depending on the variety and ripeness of your olives you now need to leave these for 3 to 6 months – you can test from time to time and top up with more brine if the water level drops. They are ready when you enjoy the taste.

The olive will keep well for up to 5 years in this solution

Part 2 Preparing as gifts

Of course you want to share these delicious treats with friends and family, so now we will put the olives into jars.

Select your clean jars with firm fitting (leak-proof) lids and sterilize them ( place freshly washed jars into the oven at 140 degrees C  for 20 minutes)

Remove olives from brine and wash in fresh water, drain. You may add your favorite dried herbs  and mix well. (IMPORTANT:  they must be dried herbs – no fresh herbs here at all). I like oregano, rosemary, garlic and chilli.

Mix a new brine solution at the same ratio of 10%,  now we can go 100g Salt to 1 L of water, dissolve salt and add 250ml of wine vinegar to the brine for every liter of water. Heat this mixture to hot but don’t boil. I use red wine vinegar for black olives ( eg ripe kalamata) or white wine vinegar for green olives (eg green manzanillo). I have also used balsamic vinegar with black olives which gives a tasty result.

Pack you olives tightly into the jars, and pour in the brine and vinegar mixture to overflowing, secure the lids, wipe jars and add your own hand made label.

These olives will now keep for up the 2 years

Part 3 Serving

Although many people enjoy the olives straight from the jar, I prefer to go the next step to serve truly spectacular olives.

Remove the olives from the jar, and add your favorite fresh herbs – parsley, lemon zest and fresh garlic is great, or for a middle eastern style add coriander, some dried cumin and lemon zest.  Perhaps a sprinkle of dukkha? This is only limited by your taste and imagination. Place into serving dish and add a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oil, and your guests will be delighted.

These olives will keep in the fridge for a few days, but the fresh herbs will go furry if left too long !

If you prefer pitted olives do this at the serving stage, as the olives quickly loose flavor once the pit is removed. A cherry pitter is very effective for this task.