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How are olives cured?


Greek Method:

Fully ripened, dark purple or black olives are gradually fermented in brine (salt water) to leach out their bitter taste. They are sweeter and richer with a more complex taste than other varieties. Because caustic soda solutions, which speed up the curing time, are not permitted in Greece, fermentation takes eight to ten months. Kalamata olives are cured using red wine vinegar or red wine to give them their distinctive flavor.

Dry Cured:

Fully ripened black olives that are rubbed with coarse salt and left to cure for months resulting in their characteristically wrinkled appearance. The salt is removed before the olives are sold.

Sun Cured:

Fully ripe black olives that are left on the tree to dry.

Oil Cured:

Fully ripe black olives that are soaked in oil for a few months.


Spanish Method:

Unripe, light green olives are soaked in a fast-acting lye solution (caustic soda) for six to sixteen hours to leach out the oleuropin, which gives them their bitter taste. This method of using a lye solution to cure olives was invented in Spain. Olives cured this way have a crisp texture and nutty flavor.

American Method:

Half-ripe, yellow-red-colored olives are soaked in an alkaline lye solution without fermentation. A flow of air bubbled through the olive-lye solution is used to oxidize the olives and give them their characteristic black color. Cold water rinses are used after curing to remove as much of the curing solution as possible. Iron is also added (in the form of ferrous gluconate) to preserve the dark color. Some varieties of American olives, which are produced in California, include Sevillano, Queens and Mission. Mission olives are dry-cured.


Canned black olives are made from unripe olives, which are picked green, cured in lye and pumped with oxygen to make them black. Canned green olives are cured in lye. Canned olives are soft in texture and flat in flavor.

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