How to Cure Olives with Lye – a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy. 
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.
Have you ever wanted to cure your own fresh olives? It’s really not as difficult as it seems. Here’s a step-by-step guide to walk you through the process of How to Cure Olive with Lye.
Lye, ( food-grade Sodium Hydroxide) speeds up the process of removing the bitterness from the olives, because it is incredibly alkalizing, which without it, would take weeks.
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.
These bright green Super Colossal Sevillanos from California arrived yesterday.   Fresh olives are in season in the fall and are available to purchase online if you don’t happen to live near an olive grove. 🙂
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy. .
After researching, I found a way to leave the olives bright green much like the popular Castlevatrano olives. It involves lye.  Just make sure before you purchase a bottle of lye, that it is 100% lye (100% sodium hydroxide) with no other additives.
It sounds very intimidating but is actually quite simple.  If you are skeptical about lye, I highly recommend you read this.  Surprisingly, it has been used to preserve food over the years.
Curing with lye will yield mild, fruity, bright, buttery olives that are just lightly salted.

What you’ll need to cure olives:

  • 4 cups mature green olives (see instructions)
  • 1 tablespoon 100 % Pure Lye x 3  (3 tablespoons)
  • 1 quart Water x 3
  • Salt
  • large crock or jar
  • optional additions: herbs, garlic, lemon zest
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy. #curedolives #howtocureolives #lyecuredolives

How to Cure Olives with Lye

  1. Rinse olives with water and place them in a large crock, glass, porcelain jar, or bowl.
  2. Mix 1 tablespoon lye with 1-quart water. Pour this over the olives. Soak 12 hours.
  3. Drain the olives and soak for 12 more hours in a fresh lye solution. (1 tablespoon lye per quart water)
  4. Drain and rinse. Cut into the largest olive to see if the lye has reached down to the pit (you can tell by the color); if so, the lye cure is complete.
  5. If one more lye bath is needed, drain, soak in another fresh lye solution for 12 more hours; then drain and rinse with cold water.
  6. Soak the olives in fresh, cold water, changing the water three (or more) times a day for the next  4 days.
  7. At the end of 4 days, taste an olive to ensure no trace of lye flavor remains.
  8. Then soak the olives in a mild salt brine solution mixed at the ratio of 6 tablespoons salt to 1 gallon water, for 3 days.
  9. Feel free to add a sprig of rosemary, lemon zest and garlic cloves if you like.
  10. The olives are now ready to eat, but continue soaking in the brine, they will get better as they sit.
  11. Store in a cool, dark place, preferably the refrigerator or basement, and use within two months.

WARNING: Lye can cause burns. Keep lemon or vinegar handy to neutralize any lye that splashes onto the skin. If lye gets into your eyes, bathe them in running water and call your doctor. Feel free to use gloves.

How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.
Besides the olives and lye, all you really need is a large crock or glass jar….and some good salt. This gave me a good excuse to use my crock for what it intended.  Normally it holds kitchen utensils.;)
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.
You’ll spend about 2-3 days soaking the olives in the lye water.
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.
 Then you’ll spend 3-4 days rinsing the lye OUT of the olives.
Then they are ready to put in a light salt brine.
Then you’ll soak in a salt brine for 3 days. 

How long does it take to cure olives?

The whole process takes about 10 days. 
At this point, you can keep in the crock or transfer to smaller jars.
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy. #curedolives #howtocureolives #lyecuredolives
After filling all the jars, pour another cold salt water brine over the olives and place them in the fridge.

At this point you can also infuse the brine with herbs, garlic and lemon zest.
Try bay leaves, or add sprigs of fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary,  and lemon zest or garlic cloves or even chili peppers to create the flavors you want. Have fun and get creative.
These also make great gifts!
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.

How to Store the Olives

After filling all the jars, pour another cold salt water brine over the olives and place them in the fridge.

How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.

How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy. #curedolives #howtocureolives #lyecuredolives

How to serve Cured Olives

To serve, drain the olives and drizzle them with a good quality olive oil.
Sprinkle in some lemon zest and chili flakes if you like. Scatter with fresh herbs.
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.
Serve with your favorite cheese, cured meat and crackers… or eat them right out of the jar.
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.
So there you have it! How to Cure Olives with Lye – a step-by-step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.
How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.
A fun and simple project!
For more useful information on Curing Olives go here! 
xoxo
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How to Cure Olives with Lye - a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy. #curingolives #curedolives #howtocureolives

How to Cure Olives with Lye

  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine
  • Prep Time: 10 days
  • Total Time: 240 hours
  • Yield: 1 quart 1x
  • Category: how to
  • Method: soaking
  • Cuisine: italian

Description

How to Cure Olives with Lye – a step by step guide, that turns bitter olives into buttery delicious bites the whole family will enjoy.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 4 cups mature green olives (see instructions)
  • 1 tablespoon 100 % Pure Lye x 3
  • 1 quart Water x 3
  • Salt
  • optional additions: herbs, garlic, lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Use clean, fresh, mature green olives.
  2. Rinse the olives with water and place them in large crock, glass or porcelain jar or bowl.
  3. Mix 1 tablespoon lye with 1 quart water. Pour over the olives. Soak 12 hours.
  4. Drain the olives and soak for 12 more hours in a fresh lye solution. (1 tablespoon lye, per quart water) Drain and rinse. Cut into the largest olive to see if the lye has reached the pit, and if so, the lye cure is complete. If one more lye bath is needed, drain, soak in a another fresh lye solution for 12 more hours; then drain and rinse with cold water.
  5. Soak the olives in fresh, cold water, changing the water three (or more) times a day for the next  4  days. At the end of 4 days, taste an olive to make sure that there is no trace of lye flavor remaining.
  6. Then soak the olives in a salt brine solution mixed at the ratio of 6 tablespoons salt to 1-gallon water, for 3 days.  Feel free to add a sprig of rosemary, lemon zest and a garlic clove if you like.
  7. The olives are now ready to eat,but continiue soting in the brine, they will get better as they sit.
  8. Store in a cool, dark place, preferably the refrigerator and use within two months.

WARNING: Lye can cause burns. Keep lemon or vinegar handy to neutralize any lye that splashes onto the skin. If lye gets into your eyes, bathe them in running water and call your doctor.



Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 168

Keywords: how to cure olive, lye cured olives

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Comments

  1. I’m interested in processing olives with lye to avoid having to break the skin of every olive to remove bitterness. Am I right that you don’t need to break the skin to release the bitterness? I Spain I ate a lot of olives. None were punctured or crushed.

    1. You are correct Tom, you don’t need to break the skin in the recipe. 😉

  2. Nice article thanks. An important safety note as you say lye can’t burn you when it’s in water.

    Lye means an alkaline solution. Sodium hydroxide AKA caustic soda is not yet lye until mixed with water. Sodium hydroxide is activated by water. It can react with the moisture on your skin or in your body. The fumes it produces when mixed with water are also very dangerous as is the liquid.

    1 tablespoon per litre is a fairly low concentration compared to soap making for instance which is likely why the solution didn’t burn you immediately but the olives still likely need to be washed and brined before they can be safely consumed.

    1. Thanks for the clarification- yes, the olives are repeatedly washed, rinsed and brined before consuming.

  3. Some people use 0.18 gr custic soda per one kg green olive for curing after 24 hours they washing three times per day

  4. You can use a plastic bucket, like those from Home Depot. I put 1/2 cup lye per two gallons of water and 16 pounds of olives. This year only 4 buckets, two years ago 23 buckets. These are the Colossal size so it will probably be two lye treatments. I cut 1/4 thick plastic discs just smaller than the diameter of the bucket to put on top of the olives so air does not touch the olives or they turn black. Some recipes call for a towel or whatever, the plastic disc is perfect. Brine as in the recipe posted here, just add as much as the size of the container, fine sea salt is great. JJ. pics on my FB John Birdman Joseph to see what it looks like using buckets. Hope this helps, this a nice post to add comments.

  5. Fantastic recipe, this is the first I have looked for a recipe using lye. I have been using 1 1/2 cup/gal brine, it takes forever, and they end up mushy and too salty. (yet still edible) I have 5 varieties in 80-90 trees and it takes a lot of effort to get them all to a press.

  6. Thanks so much
    I actually searched for this recipe to find out if the olive seeds of cured olives were exposed to high temperatures, which would render them useless for planting
    From the looks of this recipe it seems that they are not

    If other cured olives go through a process similar to the one described here, then I would just have to find out if the lye or any of the other ingredients would damage the seeds
    I guess the next step is to just plant the seeds and see what happens

    1. All great questions…I’m not equipped to answer. Sorry. Try planting and see what happens?

  7. The recipe (instructions) does not indicate how many (cups or whatever) of olives to use–it simply says 1X, 2X or 3X.
    What amount of olives do I use for a 1x batch?

  8. I live in California and have access to olives- these turned out so delicious. Love your easy to follow instructions. Will definitly make again.

  9. I think I blew it and pulled the olives out of the lye water too soon….:( The olives are still very hard can I place them into the lye water again or what should I do ? Thank you, Elf

  10. Hi Sylvia! This project sounds awesome… I’m happy I stumbled upon it. I was actually searching all over the internet for the large ceramic jar (with the blue crown on it) when I came upon this post. By any chance could you tell me what brand that is or where you go it?? I saw it at Dean and DeLuca in NYC and have been wanting to buy one ever since.

  11. Since there is a limited time frame for curing olives ( once a year ) I wanted them to last longer than the 1 to 2 months as most recipes say.
    After the last rinse of the lye process II place the olives along with sliced garlic cloves in jars then fill with 2/3 salt water and 1/3 vinegar. No other brining that requires rinsing befor eating.
    I Then keep them on a shelf in my garage, fall, winter and early spring. ( approx 40 -50 degrees F.
    I am now on my last jar ( 5 months ) and they are as crisp as when I first placed them in the jars. Don’t know how long they would last as I have no more. Maybe this year I will make more.so I can further test.
    By the way the garlic cloves are crunchy and delicious.

  12. Hi there Sylvia,I am from South Africa and for the love of olives cannot find a product called Lye, is there by any chance a substitute that could be used with same result.Your advice and opinion would be greatly appreciated .Thank you.

    1. Dave, I don’t know of a substitute…Im so sorry!! Did you check the hardware store? It must say 100% lye on the bottle with no other additives.

      1. Sodium Hydroxide is the scientifically accurate name for lye.

        It’s fairly cheap to buy food grade lye on the internet, I just bought two pounds (almost one kilogram) for about $16US including shipping, July 2015.

        It’s a good idea to use food grade if you can because even 100% lye drain opener might contain trace amounts of toxic heavy metals, etc. including lead.

        You’ll have lotsof lye left over for other food projects – most notably pretzels (that’s how they get that amazing brown color – by dipping them in lye water before baking). Many asian foods also use a lye bath.

        It’s also good for cleaning very heavily baked on grease on ovenware and oven parts, no matter how thick the layer is. Finally, you can still use it for drain cleaner.

        Just follow the proper safety precautions, otherwise it actually is very dangerous. Many, many sites list safe procedures for using lye, but the most important are:
        1.) Safety gear: gloves and eye protection and even a mask if you might be tempted to sniff fumes before you think about it.
        2) Pour the lye into the water. NEVER put the lye in a container first and pour water on top of it -NEVER!
        3) Rememeber the leftover liquid might still be strong stuff after you use it. Be careful of how you dispose it.
        4) Keep young children far far away.

      2. Lye is sodium hydroxide, aka caustic soda, it’s also used as a drain cleaner. Red hot devil is one brand that is 100% pure food grade. I bought mine off of amazon. It’s cheaper.

  13. Thanks very much for this informative blog. Like Carey, I was always a bit unsure about using drain opener with my olives. Could you please tell me how much lye you use per US gallon (3.8Litres)?

    1. Robyn, I used 3 Tablespoons of Lye per 1 gallon of water. There is a link above with step by step instructions.thanks for stopping by!

  14. What about using the extra concentrated drain opener, it is okay? Because I didn’t found it where I live.
    Can I use it and I less the time?

  15. I just discovered your blog (thank you, foodgawker), and I am enamored! (As you can tell, I made it all the way from the Parsnip Gratin back to here…and then beyond.) The abundance and quality of photos is wonderful. I am especially happy to have found this post as I’ve been curious about working with lye for a while, but hadn’t really come across the proper inspirational reassurance. So glad I happened upon your site!

  16. So cool! I eat olives all the time but since Scandinavia isn´t exactly a place to grow olives I rarely get to se them fresh, will try to try this though.

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Hi, I'm Sylvia!

Chef and author of the whole-foods recipe blog, Feasting at Home, Sylvia Fountaine is a former restaurant owner and caterer turned full-time food blogger. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest and shares seasonal, healthy recipes along with tips and tricks from her home kitchen.

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