Made from green olives

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It is easy to buy olives in the stores
but they do not taste as good as home cured olives.

A Fresh picked olive is very bitter
and is not edible until it is thoroughly cured.

How I Cure: Olives
Using a solution of water and Lye

Step-by-step process with photos shown below.

Caution:  Lye is a poison.  Lye is composed of 100% Sodium Hydroxide also known as Caustic Soda.  When handling lye, be sure to read the label and follow all instructions.  Avoid contact with skin, eyes, and clothing.  If lye does get on skin or in eyes, be sure to wash or flush immediately and thoroughly with clean clear water.  Wearing goggles or some type of eye protection is highly recommended when working with lye.  Sometimes there may be splash back or a strong reaction when adding lye to water.  Be sure to keep lye out of reach of children.


Note:  The lye one needs has to say 100% lye on the can or container.  If it doesn't, it is because there are other ingredients added for unplugging drains.  Do not use DRAINO even though it contains mostly lye.  The other ingredients may be harmful to your health. 


Obtaining Lye:  Lye is hard to obtain in certain states because of new laws coming into effect which were created to prevent the making of illegal drugs.   If one indicates that the lye is needed for curing olives, one can still obtain the lye in most states.


Items and ingredients needed:

  • 5 to 6 gallons of fresh picked olives.
  • 12 heaping tablespoons of 100% Lye.
  • Lots of clean clear water that is easily accessible and close by.
  • 24 tablespoons salt?
  • Two 5-gallon plastic buckets, food grade preferred.
  • Strong clean wooden stick about 3 feet long and about 1” to 2” thick.  Be sure it has no paint, varnish or any other type materials or chemicals on it.
  • Rubber Gloves that fit and have no holes.


Picking olives

On the Twentieth day of the Tenth month, anno Domini Two thousand seven, I picked about five to six gallons of olives.  The olives measure about 1” long. .I separated the olives into two buckets because some were green and some were of a purplish color.  The purple ones become a brown color after set in lye and are much tastier than the green ones and have more oil but can become soft.  Do not pick the very black ones, they will not cure well in lye and may become mushy.  The way to tell if over ripe or not is by cutting some examples.  If they are not green on the inside, but are a deep purple or black color, they are too ripe for curing.



  1. Bring 6 to 8 cups of water to boil and pour water into a Pyrex glass-type container that can handle caustic materials and hot water without cracking. Lye dissolves better in hot water. 


  1. Begin adding one tablespoon of lye to water very slowly while mixing the water with a wooden stick such as chop sticks.  Then repeatedly, add the next tablespoon of lye in the same manner until all 12 tablespoons of lye are mixed into the water.  Keep mixing until all is dissolved.  Do not add the lye to water too quickly or it will burst into boiling explosions.  Do not breathe the vapor or fumes.


  1. Let the “water and lye” solution cool until no longer hot but lukewarm.


  1. In the meantime, add cold fresh clean clear water to the olives just enough to cover the olives.


  1. After water and lye solution is cooled down, add the solution slowly to the olives while mixing the olives.  Be sure that equal amounts are added evenly to both buckets of olives.


  1. After mixing, place a large ceramic or glass plate over the olives, submerging the plate enough to rest on the olives, to keep the olives from floating up.   Place a clean lid on the buckets and secure so that pets or children cannot access the “lye and water” solution.  Animals may want to drink the “lye and water” solution thinking it is drinkable water.


  1. Every hour on the hour for the next 12 to 14 hours remove lid and plate and mix the olives thoroughly from top to bottom while swirling the stick at a slight angle.  Be sure to use gloves during this process so as to not get lye on your skin.  You will notice that the water will eventually turn to a brownish color.   The dark brown color indicates that the lye solution is removing the bitterness from the olives.


  1. After 12 hours, begin checking the olives to see if the lye has penetrated to the pit.  Take an olive out of the bucket and cut or slice it open close to the pit.  Check the color of the olive on the inside.  If the color is brown or has an oily or wet look to it, it means that lye has accessed that particular area.  If it looks whitish or dry looking, the lye has not penetrated to that region of the olive.  If the lye has not penetrated to the pit, mix the olives again, and check every hour or half hour and repeat this process. 


  1. Once the lye has penetrated close to the pit it is time to pour out the “lye and water” solution and put in fresh clean water.  Select an area that is acceptable to pour the “lye and water” solution onto the ground.  Be sure that it is an area where plants and or animals will not be affected.  While wearing gloves, hold the plate over and against the olives to secure the olives in place so they do not get washed out of the bucket.  Tilt the bucket slowly until the “lye and water” solution is poured out of the bucket.


  1. Immediately, add clean clear water and mix the olives thoroughly.  Rinse the plate with clean water and place the plate back in place over the olives.  Be sure that there is at least 2” of water above the plate.  Place the lid on the bucket and secure.  Mix olives again about every four hours.  You will notice that the water turns a brownish color.  This is because the bitterness of the olive along with the lye is being removed from the olive. 


  1. After 8 hours pour out the brown water and add fresh clean water.  Repeat, changing the water every 8 hours or so, until, two or three days have passed.


  1. After two or three days of changing the water, a salt solution or salt brine can now be added.  Mix in about 20 tablespoons of salt in two quarts of boiling hot water and let chill.  After the salt water solution is cooled down to a lukewarm temperature, add to olives and refill the buckets with fresh clean water until the olives are covered with at least one inch of salt water solution.   Place plate back over the olives and secure the lid to the bucket.  Place the buckets of olives in a cool shaded area.  After a day in the salt water solution, the olives are ready to eat.  If too salty, dilute the salt water solution.  If not salty enough, add more salt water solution.


  1. Enjoy!



Let Me know about your experience with curing olives and if this information has helped you.   

Jack, the son of Jack, of the family Slevkoff



Made from green to purple olives

We may have raw olives for curing when in season which is October to November.

Most of Our picking is during the second to fourth week of October.

The raw olives would be sent via Priority Mail in a Flat Rate box measuring 11" x 8-1/2" x 5-1/2". The box may contain about two gallons of olives (10 pounds plus). Price is $29.50 plus $16.50 S&H.

A smaller olive variety is $23.50 plus $16.50 S&H. Usually ripe at the end of October or possibly in November.

If you are in Our area (Central Valley - Fresno), olives for curing are available for you to pick at $2.00 per pound when in season . Location available upon request when time and day is set for picking.

All subject to availability.

Send requests and payment to:

Jack; Slevkoff
c/o 4460 West Shaw Avenue, Suite 140
Fresno [Non-Domestic]
California [Zip Exempt]

Curing process began on the Twenty-first day of the Tenth month, anno Domini Two thousand seven.

Olives come in different stages of ripeness. The black olive is over ripe and must not be used, but the others are acceptable for curing.

I picked 5 to 6 gallons of olives and separated them by color

These olives are mostly green and have very little or no purplish color.

These olives have some purple color or are purple in color but not over ripe although some are on the verge of being over ripe.

This is the only 100% lye I can find here in Our area of California at this time. I found this lye at a Fresno Ag Hardware store. Be sure to read the label and caution information

I slowly mixed into the hot water one tablespoonful of lye at a time without having the water boil over until all 10 tablespoons of lye were used.

I used chop sticks to mix the lye into the water.

After the "water and lye" solution was chilled down to a lukewarm temperature, I added it to the water in the olives.

After mixing the olives with a 3-foot long wooden stick, I placed a large glass-like plate over the olives to keep them submerged.

When working with the "water and lye" solution, removing or placing the plate in place, I always use gloves to protect My hands. I also secure a lid over the bucket to keep animals and children from accessing the solution.

Eventually the "water and lye" solution becomes a dark brown color. This is an indication that the lye has entered the olive and is removing the bitterness of the olive.

After about 12 hours, I check to see how far the lye has entered the olive by slicing close to the pit. The dark area is where the lye has penetrated. This batch of olives need to be in the "water and lye" solution about another two more hours, but checking every half hour or hour.

Do not leave the buckets uncovered.

After two more hours, this is what the sliced olive looks like. The brown color now appears to go all the way to the pit. The "water and lye" solution can now be emptied and replaced with fresh clean water.

2009 Olive Curing Season


Although I have been curing olives for many years, I too have to make adjustments in My formulations.

I made two batches this year and used the same lye solution on both. One batch was all green olives and no dark color. The second batch is all purple-colored olives which are more riper. The riper olives came out bitter. The green olives came out okay with a little bitterness near the pit.

I will probably redo the riper olives because they are not edible as is. The green olives I will not redo because the bitterness will continue to dissipate from the olives even when in a salt brine solution. Each year the olives are a little different. This year the olives ripened earlier because the olive trees were not watered enough and the crop was less.

There are others beside Myself and you who are stating that the olives are still bitter after curing. I am going to modify My website formula to include two more tablespoons of lye and am adding more salt to the recipe.

Your olives look fine to Me. I do not know why they may still be bitter except that maybe the lye solution was not strong enough the first time. It appears that the more drought there is the more dense the olive and more lye will be needed to cure the olives or more time in the lye solution. Also, the olives may have more bitterness than previous years. So keep a record of what you did this time and then make some adjustments next year accordingly.

The problem of too rich of a lye solution is that it will cause the skin to separate from the olives and or the olives will come out soft and or mushy. Therefore, We have to keep some balance.

[adjustments already made in amounts above]

Additional Notes

  • The University of California provides sources for obtaining 100% lye for making olives.

  • For a preferred "lye to water" ratio, UC Davis suggests using
    4 tablespoons lye to 1 gallon of cold water.

    Using this ratio method, one would have to determine how much water it will take to cover or submerge the olives and then apply the calculated ratio amount of lye to the pre-measured water.

    Before applying this lye-water solution to the olives, be sure that the temperature is not over 70° F.

  • Whichever method one uses to cure olives, should the olives still remain bitter, it is best to redo the process over again except use less lye the second time around.

  • Some people will use a raw egg in its shell to test the adequacy of the salt brine.  If the egg floats in the brine, the brine is about right.

    UC Davis suggests that the preferred salt brine ratio should be about 6 tablespoons of salt per gallon of water.  Let stand 2 days.  Refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.

  • If one wants to keep lye-cured olives longer than 2 weeks:

    • Step 1.   Cover with salt brine - 13 tablespoons salt per gallon of water. Store 1 week.

    • Step 2.   Cover with fresh salt brine - 1 pound or 1 2/3 cups salt per gallon of water.  Store in a cool place, preferably a refrigerator.  Use within 2-4 months.  Before eating, soak olives overnight to remove excess salt. Use within 3 days after soaking.

  • Pickling is another alternative:

    After curing the olives, prepare a vinegar-water solution - equal parts vinegar and water.  Add salt to the vinegar-water solution: ½ to 1-cup salt per gallon - do not omit salt as it prevents bacterial growth.  Add garlic and spices if desired.  Cover tightly and store at room temperature.  Good for 4-5 months at room temperature or 10-12 months in the refrigerator.

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Since The Eleventh day of the Twelfth month
anno Domini Two thousand seven

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