Curing olives

The photo from yesterday’s post of the olive harvest.  The variety of colour is quite remarkable.
Olive curing recipes

I asked Tito in the Nutrivila shop where I buy all my farm supplies, what is the best way to cure olives?  I came away with five new plastic buckets and a traditional olive curing recipe.  But I also found out for the first time that there are different types of plastic: plastic for storing human food is not the same as the ordinary grade of plastic for the buckets I use on the field.

Caustic soda

Spain regionsTito kindly phoned his mother who lives in a village somewhere in Castilla La Mancha (see map of regions of Spain: “Windmills”) and she explained about the salt curing stage: the salt water has to be changed every twelve hours, and you simply keep testing the olives for bitterness until they are finally cured. Then she gave me a few extra instructions, via Tito’s mobile phone, about preserving them in oil with rosemary and thyme.

Salt, caustic soda, rosemary and thyme

After the phone call, Tito held up a white plastic tub which he grabbed off the shelf near the gardening tools and said, “Well you’ve heard the traditional curing method, but this does the job in 24 hours.”  It was caustic soda.  Since I have only ever used caustic soda to unblock drains I found it rather odd to be putting it alongside rosemary and thyme in a food recipe.


Further exploration of this was necessary.  I usually trust Tito’s advice on what kind of seedlings will be best for my soil (when he comes to deliver the donkeys’ straw, he looks at my kitchen garden), but caustic soda is the kind of agent that must be handled with rubber gloves and safety goggles. I never thought it would be the kind of stuff to throw on my food!

My lovely buckets

Aside from the excitement of having new plastic buckets, this is my first attempt at curing olives, so I am having an interesting day.  The use of caustic soda in this process is quite standard.  I have now looked it up on the internet: in California they call it the “Spanish method”; in Spain they call it the “Californian method”.  Presumably this is a ploy to avoid legal responsibility when somebody sues for damages when they have an accident with the caustic soda using this method.  Obviously the rinsing stage needs to be very rigorous.

Thanks Tito’s mum, but the timing of the stages was not clear enough and I have now resorted to the internet.  Here’s the recipe I am using:

And as with all food recipes, I chose this one because of the tasty looking olives in the photo.

Green Olives with Fennel Seeds

He’s NOT from Barcelona

Finally, on the Catalan situation.  Whatever you might think about ex-president Carles Puigdemont who is currently in hiding in Belgium, it is only fair to point out that he is not from Barcelona, even if his rocambulesque* performance in various hotels might seem like the clowning of Manuel in an episode of Fawlty Towers.  Carles is actually from Amer in Gerona, Catalonia (once more, see above map of regions of Spain: “Sausages”)


  • rocambulesque:  I have anglicised the wonderful word I discovered today in a Spanish news article about Catalonia (“El desastre” by Lluís Bassets in El Pais) and it turns out the word he used to describe Puigdemont’s antics in Belgium, rocambolesco is Italian and not Spanish, meaning fantastic, incredible.  I instantly fell in love with the word and anglicised it.  It reminds me of the film Les Enfants du Paradis: I could imagine the mime shows of Les Funambules in turn of the century 1900s Paris, with their pierrots and harlequins, being described as “rocambulesque.”

3 thoughts on “Curing olives

  1. It must be helpful to know that Tito arranges his buckets into sections suitable for donkey play and human play.

    Recipe seems very clear. Even this method seems to involve many soaking stages. Perhaps one day you might try it the traditional Windmill method! Good luck with it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I think the donkey play buckets are probably sturdier than the olive curing buckets. Apparently the sort of plastic that is not for human food is poisonous and if you leave food in it too long you could become ill. Why didn’t I know that before? Did you know that?


  3. Grades of plastic may be worth remembering, for when you give your Geography lessons on plastic pollution.

    I think Ferdinand may have read the adventures of Rocambole…

    Liked by 2 people

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