RECIPE CORNER: Middle East, including North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean

Curing Greek Olives

Fresh olives are available to people living in parts of Europe, the Middle East, the southern Blip and probably other places.  If you are in the southern US where olive trees are used in landscaping watch for them and ask the owners if you can have the olives when they are ripe.  They'll probably be happy to have them removed so they own litter the ground. Write down where you get your olives so that you can go back each year.  Plant your own trees if you wish. :-)

Method 1

Collect the olives as ripe as possible (late November in Greece). Slash or stamp each olive with the side of knife or board to make an opening, then soak in cold water in earthenpiano coverse or glass containers for 10 days, changing the water daily. Soak in a brine solution for 24 hours, then wash off the brine and soak for 24 hours in vinegar. Drain. Store in jars in olive oil. This method will preserve olives indefinitely. (If sourer olives are preferred, add a little vinegar to the oil).

Method 2

Choose red to dark red olives, slash them on one side with a very sharp stainless knife to reduce bruising. Place the olives in any non-metallic container. Make a solution of 1/4 cup salt dissolved in 1 quart water, and pour enough over the olives to immerse them. Make sure the olives are completely submerged in the solution. Store in a cool place, changing the solution once a week, for three weeks. Any scum that forms on the surface is harmless, just rinse the container and the olives in fresh water if some forms.

Taste one of the largest at the end of three weeks. If only slightly bitter (should still be a bit tangy), pour off the brine and rinse the olives. If still quite bitter, rebrine for another week.

Marinade for Olives (use same container)

1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 tbs salt dissolved in 2 cups water
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 lemon wedges
2 cloves garlic

Pour marinade over the olives and float enough olive oil to form a layer 1/4 inch on top. The olives will be ready to eat after sitting in the marinade for a few days. Store in a cool place or in fridge. (piano coversning:  if kept too long, the lemon and vinegar flavors will predominate, so eat within a month after ready.)


Place washed olives in a wicker basket or a plastic container with holes. Cover with medium-coarse salt. Set basket in sun and protect with a cheesecloth cover. Twice a day for a week, toss olives to redistribute them, until the bitter fluid is drawn from them. Bring olives in at night to prevent mold.


Cover washed olives with a solution of salt water - 1 cup salt to each quart water - in a crock or glass jar. Place a weight, such as a small plate or washed rock, to keep olives submerged. Olives may remain in this brine for months. Marinate in Olive Marinade before serving.

[editors note: not slashing the olives can result in a strong falvor.]

Strongly salted olives

Wash and dry the olives. Place in a container in layers, alternating with dry rock or sea salt, using about 300 grams of salt per kilo of olives. Cover and leave for six months. The salt will extract liquid from the olives, leaving them shrivelled. Before eating the olives, rinse in plain water, or soak for a few hours. These olives have a much stronger taste than the first ones.

Lime Method

There may be more recent, and better methods for curing olives in brine,but this is the one followed in Romagna [in 1891], with excellent results.

For each pound of olives you will need:
1 pound wood ash
1 1/2 ounces quick lime (Lime is caustic. Wear rubber gloves at all times while handling it, and, whatever you do, don't get it in your eyes.)
8 teaspoons salt
3 cups water

Lime is said to be quick when, upon being moistened with water, it undergoes a chemical reaction, crackling, heating up, smoking, and collapsing into a powder. At this point the lime is slaked, and no longer dangerous. Continue to wear gloves, however, till you have made the slurry described below.  It is in this powdered state that you should use it, mixing it with the ash and the water to make a not too dense slurry. Immerse the olives in it, covering them with a weighted top that will keep them immersed in the slurry, and let them soak for twelve to fourteen hours, in other words, until they have become quite soft. Touch them frequently to check their progress. Some people check to see if the pulp of the olive comes free from the pit, but this indicator is sometimes wrong.

Remove the olives from the slurry, rinse them repeatedly, and soak them in fresh water for four or five days, changing the water three times a day, until the water comes clear and the olives lose their bitter taste. Once the olives have reached this stage, set three cups of water to heat on the fire with the salt and several slices of bulb fennel. Boil the water for several minutes, let it cool, pour it over the olives, and store the olives in a glass gar or glazed urn.

To slake the lime, immerse it for five or six seconds in water and then set it on a sheet of paper. Put the paper in a plastic bowl, which won't be damaged by the reaction.


Soak 5 Cups of Garbanzo beans (chick peas) over night.

Place in a blender and grind with:
1 bunch parsley
4 medium onions
3 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 Tablespoon coriander
1 Tablespoon caraway
2 Tablespoons salt (?)
2 hot peppers
2 teaspoons baking powder
2  teaspoons baking soda

Grind  twice.
Form into 2-3 inch patties and fry in hot grease in a  frying pan.

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Assyrian Foods:

Here is a whole Arab cook book on the web!  Also some Miscellaneous Recipes including how to cure olives!

The Middle Eastern Cook Book.  Another Arab cook book!

Morocco recipes from The African Cookbook site:

background & some graphics by mary vannattan

spchk  mt/se