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129 responses to “Curing Olives with Lye”

  1. Peter Arnold

    Is this the process used in making the Gerber green ripe olives, Hank?
    Also, acorns aret sarting to fall but it does notlook like a big year so far.

  2. Scott Phree

    Hi Hank. Great info. I read your water cure (have a batch going now) and contemplating the speed (and adventure) of the drain cleaner route.

    Question – do you still need to “crack” (slice) the green olives when using lye?

    I assume not, as no mention above. Just checking


  3. Bill

    I remember doing this once, though not nearly as precise. I used an old, plastic trash can to cure a zillion olives. I think I used an entire can of Drano. I didn’t protect them from exposure to oxygen. As a matter of fact, I kept the operation the back porch. No wonder my green olives turned black. I would later salt cure my creation in old, one-gallon plastic jugs that once held a milk or orange juice product (finances were a tad tight in those days). Believe it or not, the finished product was REALLY good. I munched on those olives for months. It was a nice, free snack for a starving college student…

  4. Jared

    Hi Hank,

    I’ve done the brine cure before, but would like to try this method.

    Two questions:

    1) Is this method for olives that you are picking in the late summer/early fall (still green), or for late winter olives (ripened up a bit)?

    2) For the recipe above (1 gallon of water, 3 Tbs of lye) roughly how many pounds of olives will that cure?

    Love your site!


  5. Dustin

    Great site and wonderful recipes! My wife and I have enjoyed many wonderful meals so thank you. I was wondering after the curing process what is the shelf life of these olives?

  6. Nicole Novak

    I have found that if you want to hold the olives for a very long time, you can make a much stronger brine. The only downside to that is the olives must be soaked for a few hours to remove the excess salt before you can eat them. I cure mine pretty early to avoid soft olives and those pesky fly invasions.

  7. Secret_Ingredient

    While Barnes & Noble asks about $300 for this, I suggest an inter-library loan, if you are not all that flush. Or maybe suggest it as a Christmas present to someone who is crazy for your cooking.

    Table Olives: Production and processing
    A. Garrido Fernandez, M.R. Adams, M.J. Fernandez-Diez

    covers the fermentation aspects nicely. And just about everything else. I love me some black cured and fermented olives.

  8. Jennifer Kleffner

    Lye is also used in soap making, and so can often be found online on sites that sell soap making supplies (I’m a soap maker). Roebic lye (100% lye) can be found in 2 lb containers at Lowes in the pluming aisle (the only lye I’ve been able to find at a hardware store in Colorado or Washington). Because lye is also used in meth production, you will sometimes need to show ID when you buy it and sign a form. I had an olive tree in Arizona, and never did a thing with them. Now I live in a climate where they don’t grow, and am kicking myself. Great info.

  9. Greg

    Which parks in our fair “City of Trees” have abundant olives for the taking?

  10. Will K

    You may have trouble locating lye in a hardware or grocery store. Lye is apparently used in the production of methamphetamine, so a lot of stores have pulled it from their shelves (I know this from trying to locate a local source for loosening the grain on deerhides in the process of braintanning). As Hank noted, there are online sources (soap making websites are a good place to start).

  11. DSKIT

    I used “ROOTO Crystals of Household 100% Lye Drain Opener” found at my local Ace Hardware in Roseville.

    Soaked 12 hours, made fresh lye mixture and soaked another 8 hours.

    I’m on Day 4 of freshwater soaking and they tasted “soapy” last night.

  12. Julia

    Hi Hank,

    I have a feeling that Eric Skokan would really like that food history uber geek list-serve. Can you tell me a little about it and how to subscribe?


    Julia Joun

  13. Alectorix

    “Delicatessen”, me encantan, ahora ha sido la época de recolección en verde y próximamente comienza la recolección en negro para la producción de aceite.
    Gracias por la receta, un saludo desde Jaén.

  14. Colleen Stanturf

    Thanks for the how-to info! Now I can go pick those green beauties!! My neighbor in Davis has 3 (or 4?) olive trees with a bumper crops and said she would really like it if I could find people to pick and take them. They are a real mess for people who don’t have the time or inclination to processing them. Maybe you would be interested in helping organize a picking party?

  15. David Skit

    After 5 days of water rinsing, they taste like tasteless olives! Now brining for a week.

  16. Dee Perigo

    Thanks Hank, I am a new comer to this olive stuff, but was given (already picked) a five gallon bucket full of the largest green olive I have ever seen and didn’t want one morsel to go to waste… I am keeping my fingers crossed!! Thanks again

  17. louisa

    Hi Hank, thanks for the thorough info on this type of brinning – I just got a couple of pounds of beautiful, fresh green olives and was going to research how to ‘prepare’ them – found your site.
    One word of caution – you do emphasize that dry lye would burn, I would also mention right there the ‘antidote’ in case of an accident: that is, have an acid on hand, like vinegar, to rinse immediately, – instead of rinsing with water which is worse; this is only my opinion going back to the high school chem class, there might be a better treatment for lye exposure.

  18. Barbara Byram

    Please tell me I haven’t ruined 17 pounds of olives. I’ve followed your directions to a letter and am half way thru my fifth day of the water soak. I’ve changed the water three time in every 24 hours. First my olives turned very dark olive-drab, even tho submerged, and not they are starting to get a kind of “milky” look to them, and they still have substantial bitterness, although less so than after the first two days. Is all this normal? I’d hate to think ill have to trash them.

  19. Barbara Byram

    No, I didn’t do them all in one batch. I used two 3 gal crocks and used three tablespoons per each gallon of water to cover. Since it took two more days to get my query through the moderator on your site, I went ahead and tried my own method to try and save them. It may not work, but they are inedible as is. I put them back into a lye soak, weaker, and for less time, and will try the whole thing again. If I have to throw them out I can hopefully get more and use my old tried and e method. I guess I should have stuck with that, but thought yours would be worth trying.

  20. Rachel

    While I appreciate your open ended herb/spice flavoring suggestions, would you mind providing specific herb/spice combo recommendations, with quantities. Olive curing time only comes once a year, and I have ruined olives w/ spice/herb combos I haven’t liked. Thank you!

  21. Nigel

    Hey Hank,

    Just wondering, I have lime (calcium hydroxide i think) that I use for treating corn, can it be used to cure olives with this method instead of lye?

  22. Sarah

    Question… I lye cured my green olives for 12 hours and then brined them after the rinse period. They had a week of rinsing twice daily in water and then have had a week in brine. They are still too bitter for the family. It’s much too late to re-lye them, right?

    I got the olives from Chaffin orchards in Oroville, so they were good quality and medium size.



  23. Tami Michel

    We received a wonderful jar of green olives cured in lye from a co-worker and they are delicious. Is it possible to get the “runs” from eating too many? thanks.

  24. Dan

    To those who are troubled with the lye solution try this. Go to the local pharmacy and have them mix up a solution of phenolphthalein. It usually comes in a little eyedropper bottle. A drop of this on a lye saturated olive will turn a majenta pink color and if there is no color there is no lye. It will show even trace amounts. I do between 100 to 200 gallons every year and have a 30 gallon batch going now. Evidence that they are good is the line of friends I get every year with containers in tow.

  25. Sarah


    I cured my first 20lbs of green olives with lye last month. Unfortunately, after the 12 hours in the lye cure, I started the rinse/soak phase without making sure they were debittered enough. After almost two weeks of soak/rinse, I went ahead and brined them. After two weeks in the brine, I like the brine flavor, but they are still way too bitter for us. I gave most of them to my pigs and now have just 3 quart jars in the fridge.

    So my question is….   Will they continue to lose bitterness in the brine if I refresh it or is this the final product? Also, once you’ve brined them, it’s too late to go back and re-lye, right?

    Thanks so much!


    Chico, CA

  26. Sarah

    Sorry Hank,

    I missed your first response. You already answered my question, thanks!


  27. DSKIT

    One week in brine and they taste great as is. My wife and daughter ate the dozen or so that didn’t make the jars.

    I was at a loss for flavorings and process as well. With jalapenos and red peppers, I added chopped fresh garlic, a tablespoon of olive oil to the jar and microwaved for 1 minute – I let it cool then added the olives and brine. I figured that would ‘release more flavor”.

    Other combos were fennel with lemon slice, raw garlic with bay and oregano, and just chopped garlic heated with olive oil. Several jars of just plain brine.

    One week in the fridge and they should be ready.

  28. DSKIT

    As for the comment tha noted 12 hours of lye may not have been enough, my test was after the 1st 12 hours, I rinsed and cut into a couple of olives – if you see white near the pit, they need more time – if it was green/yellow all the way to the pit, they were good.

    It turned out the small ones were good, but the larger ones needed more time, so I re-did the lye for about 9 hours and that seemed adequate for my batch.

  29. Dee Perigo

    Hank, I love your website… I was given a 5 gallon bucket of the largest olives I have ever seen, I did the lye solution for 12 hours then soaked in water changing twice a day, after a week they were still too bitter and it only had a luner eclipse of penitration, so I lyed them for another 12 hours and soaked and rinsed for another week, they are perfect!

    Now I am starting the brine solution. On your recipt you have me brine for 1 week then change out to a stronger brine…

    How long do you do the second brine before you process? 1 week? or start processing that day? Do you use the brine in processing or rinse them, then process?

    Thanks again, this is a wonderful sight and my husband does a lot of hunting and we do a lot of gardening and I enjoy grinding whole grains and beans and making my own breads from them. You sight is a wonderful addition to my library!

  30. Dee Perigo

    Thanks Hank, so I can eat them right out of the second brine right away, and leave them in that brine in the fridge, correct?

  31. Liz

    Hi Hank,

    How much concern do you have about botulism when you cure olives? Do you keep them in a covered, but not air-tight container? Have you ever thrown out any of your olives, or seen any kind of film develop on the top of the brine/container?

    Thank you for your guidance!!

  32. Sharon

    Hi Hank,
    we have 5 olive trees in our yard and have made these olives only once and they were great so this year we decided to make a lot more (10 buckets). The olives were huge and it took about 36 hours of lye solution to turn the core completely green(as opposed to white). We then completed the rinsing process and put them in the brine solution and brought some into the house in the refrigerator after 24 hrs. These olives are delicious…however, the olives outside in the brine solution are turning wrinkly, soft and dark. They have been kept in the shade, covered and temp here is about 45-50 degrees at night and between 70-75 during day. We’ve never had this problem and not sure what is happening. Any ideas???? Your help would be much appreciated!
    Thanks, Sharon

  33. David

    Instead of lye, which isn’t readily available in its pure form in the stores near me, I tried potassium carbonate which is readily available in Asian grocery stores for noodle making. Check in the vinegar and sauce section. While not as alkaline as lye, at full bottle strength, it still cured the olives faster than brine alone.

  34. Kathy

    As a kid growing up my grandparents and parents would make home lye cured olives every year. I remember walking by the crock and taking a few (more like a handful)of the wonderful homemade olives. So this year I picked olives off our 100 year old olive trees, same ones my ancestors picked from, got “food” quality lye from Ace Hardware and tried my hand at making them. I divided my harvest into three containers, and started the process. Today is their second day in the first salt (used canning salt) brine and they are delicious. I will admit that a few of the larger olives are still a bit bitter but I’m sure they will get better as they remain in the brine. I plan on making a heavy salt brine and putting them in jars for holiday gifting. I will include directions to pour off the heavy salt brine and replace with fresh water and put them in the refrigerator. I’m so paranoid about botulism I feel that is the best way to go. Kathy

  35. Don Miller

    I live in Pittsburgh, Pa so getting raw olives is difficult. This year I found some nice big green ones. I had used the lye process years ago. But, I forgot how to do it. But, I found a great paper on all the different curing processes that you all might want to read

  36. Frank Balestrieri


    I grew up surrounded by old Sicilians, all of whom cured olives of one type or another. Unfortunately I never paid attention to how they cured them because their olive jars were always ‘around’. Now the old ones are gone, and with them their recipes for curing olives. My son, an avid hunter, fisherman and cook, recommended your website to me. A little over four years ago, I planted a mini-olive orchard of 89 trees. This is the first year they produced a small but viable crop. I used your lye recipe for curing about five pounds of olives. Although it took 14 days to leach all of the lye out, and another 14 days to infuse them with pink Himalayan salt, the result is simply fabulous! You are right–they are the Lay’s Potato Chips of olives–you can’t eat just one!

    Sincerely, Your New Devotee,

    Frank Balestrieri

  37. Kathy

    Changed my brine to a 1 cup per gallon of water today. Yep just like Lays…..couldn’t just sample ONE!! They are simply delicious. Just in time for Thanksgiving and holiday “from the kitchen” gifts. Should probably start another batch since the trees are still loaded and don’t look too ripe. Kathy

  38. Kelly

    Hi All: Poor math skills led me to over-lye my olives. I rinsed in water for 5 days and spot-tasted several. They tasted fine. But now that I have started my salt baths and eaten whole ones, I’m worried that they actually taste like lye. There’s no bitterness and the olives are nice and soft, but even as I write, I have this weird sensation on my tongue. From the lye? Should I stop the salt baths and return to water? The water was the faintest green when I switched from water to salt. Thanks!

  39. Leeann Haslouer

    Hi Hank,
    I just lye cured some olives for the first time using your method. My batch was kind of large, so it took a little longer than what you said. The bitterness is now gone and they are sublime!!! Canning time – what proportion of vinegar – water – salt should I use? I would like to do the traditional Spanish style (since the olives were picked from trees on a Spanish Mission property in California)

  40. brian

    Thanks Hank

    You can come to my house to harvest anytime. I have 18 70 year old olive trees on my property. I am currently finishing up my second 6 pounds of lye treatment greens. Shortly, we will be harvesting the dark olives to salt cure.

    Thanks for your blog!

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  42. Greg

    When I pour off the first salt solution I assume the second mix of salt and water is what I will put them in the jar with. My big question is if I use the 1 cup of salt to 1 gal of water how much vinegar would you put in the waterif you enjoyed the flavor of vinegar somewhat? 1 cup? I don’t want to overpower and this is my maiden voyage. Thanks

  43. Steve Bean

    Thanks for your site. How about adding a little about checking for lye penetration by cutting into a couple of olives now and then?

  44. darnielle chin

    I would like to know where to get lye for this process. I have not gotten into it because I have heard it is hard to obtain lye.

  45. dugan

    Great Site –

    I followed your recipe and olives came out fantastic – thanks!

    question ?

    I wore gloves and long sleeves the whole 9 and was totally freaked out using this stuff … I will continue to do so however you mentioned

    After the lye is mixed into the water – it cant really hurt you …

    Can you explain that a bit further ?

    Many thanks for all your great works !!!

  46. Stuart Duncan

    Lye (sodium hydroxide or NaOH) won’t hurt you when handling small ammounts such as the 500gram tubs of drain cleaner. If you fell in to an idustrial sized vat of the stuff you may have some problems though.

    Some people with very sensitive skin may experience dermititis from handling it without gloves, but it’s not common. I’ve often clasped a hand full of it without gloves to throw down a drain or what not.

    As the author already said, do not use aluminium implements when preparing food with NaOH as the NaOH will disolve the aluminium and make it soluable in water. It’s not the NaOH that will poison you, but the aluminium.

    Also, never ever mix NaOH (or acids) with other house hold cleaners as it can change the chemical structure of the cleaning acid and make it toxic. This is probably where this relatively harmless chemical gets its bad rep from.


  47. Eric Petrovich

    What is the best way to store the olives after they are done ? How long will they last?

  48. andy


    Do you still need to cut the olive when using the LYE method of curing?

    Thanks in advance


  49. George Phillips

    Hi Hank
    Just picked about 10 kg of nice firm green olives and have put them into a light brine solution.
    I am into my second day. The olives are still nice and green.
    I have just read your article
    Can I do the lye cure now? Will there be any reaction with the salt?
    Will wash them well before putting into the lye mixture

    Thanks for all the comments

  50. Timmy


    I have an olive tree in my yard and have tried brine and dry curing in years past, but the results have been too bitter for my taste so this year I tried lye curing. I used 3 tablespoons lye granules per gallon and let it go 10 hours. After 3 changes of water the olives have no bitterness and have remained firm and bright. The only problem is that the skins are peeling off the olives! Did I use too strong a solution? Any suggestions for next time?

  51. Sara

    I was wondering how many pounds of olives you used in this recipe. I only have about 2 or 3 pounds, would I have to up the amounts? Thank you!

  52. Leslie Serafin

    I live in Temecula,ca. and I have an acre of Olive trees, that I’ve just started picking and your method of curing olives, is almost exactly the way my great-grandmother, from Tecate, BC does, till this day @ the age of 90. Our nieghbors always look forward,to their jar of delious olives. Great site and great info.

  53. Erin

    Question about olive size – mine are what I would consider big – I believe they were labelled as Sevillanos. (about 1 – 1 1/2″ long) Would you recommend increasing the length of the lye process? I also read about cutting into one to see how far the lye has come to the pit. Do you have any input on checking them that way? Should there be a full colour change of the flesh all the way to the pit, or should it stop before reaching the pit?

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  55. Freda

    Can you pick the olives then wait a week to start the lye cure? If so what is the best way to store the green olives till you can start a lye cure?

  56. Erin

    Another question – if any one feels like answering… I see the lye process is at room temperature, but what about the rest? water changes.. and brining – all at room temp?

  57. fgump

    Is there a difference in the amount of lye you use, depending on the form it’s in?
    I used liquid lye, and 3TBSP didn’t seem like enough. Did you use flaked or granular lye?

  58. Joe

    I used Hank’s lye-cure recipe last year and am doing so right now. I’ve left picked olives in a clean dry bucket for several days before using without any problems, and I do my rinse process w/ water right out of the tap. On a separate note, I’ve stored olives with many different spices and flavorings including fresh mint, anise seed, cloves, fresh basil and rosemary, orange and lime and I noticed that the more exotic the flavoring, the faster you need to eat the olives. Say w/in a month or two at the most. The traditional dried spices like coriander, bay leaf, pepper, fresh garlic etc will keep much longer.

  59. zack

    I just finished soaking my olives in lye solution and noticed that some of them, when sliced into are brown at the pit. What does this indicate? The olives sat for over a week before being cured so I was wondering if they sat too long?

  60. E. Nassar

    These are heavenly and I have not even tasted the “marinated” ones yet. Only tasted them after the initial brine and they were brilliant green and delicious. A couple more days and the second flavor/brine phase is done.

  61. Sara

    Hi Hank, I just wanted to follow up. My olives turned out so well that I’m doing up another 3 pounds. Thank you for the help!

  62. GARY

    I used this process for the first time this year, well actually it was the first time I cured Olives. I had about 4 gallons of olives, used 2 gallons of water/lye solution, and soaked for the suggested 12 hours. My olives were average in size. When I poured out the solution it looked like strong coffee. after the third day I cut and tasted one expecting a soapy taste as stated. it was so bitter that there could have been a cup of soap and I wouldn’t have tasted it. I let them set in rinse solution one more day and tasted. again very bitter no change. I rinsed them one more time and then started the process over again. same amount of water/lye solution (it’s all my bucket could hold) 12 hours in the lye and again coffee colored when I poured it out. After the second day of rinsing I tasted and had a mild soapy taste. two more day of rinsing and on the last day the last three rinses were pretty much clear water when I dumped them. So I brined. I used Himalayan pink salt to brine the flavor is fantastic, but if you use it be aware it doesn’t need as much I used about a half cup per gallon of water. after three days the olives are wonderful. I have since put them in finishing brines and seasonings. they are so good.

  63. GARY

    The gentleman that owns the grove where I picked my olives contacted me this morning and asked if I would consider doing some for him. Let me explain I looked high and low for somewhere local to get olives and could find none. I happened accross a business that had a small grove of olive on their property. The owner is a super nice guy. When I asked about purchasing some olives from him he told me that all he wanted was a couple of small bottles of olives when I was done. I took him some simple brine and a flavored bottle that I came up with. Now we are back to the start. He called me this morning, telling me that these are the best olives he has had in ten or fifteen years. Thank you so much Hank. So my second batch is in the cure. I think with the first one I didn’t have enough lye solution for the ammount of olives that I had in there. I used two gallons of solution and had almost 4 gallons of olives. So I had to cure twice. This time I have a few more olives, but have increased my solution to almost three gallons. I’d do a little more than that, but don’t have enough room in my container. I’ll let you know how these progress. thanks again

  64. GARY

    Has anyone ever tried using oriental flavors in their olives? I was thinking about something like sesame garlic and ginger. I just don’t know if the flavors will work together. Does anyone have anything unique that they have used, I’m open to try anything interesting.

  65. GARY

    Hey Zack, did you continue with your oives. I think if they are brown the lye has not leached out completely (not sure I’m not super experienced) I just have been reading everything I can find about curing them. How did they turn out?

  66. Kathryn

    Hi Hank,
    I’m 9 hours in to soaking 5lbs. in 1 gal. Of the lye solution. I wouldn’t describe the water as dark, exactly. A picture of that step would be helpful. It is more the shade of green tea. One previous poster described a strong coffee shade. Any insights? Thanks!

  67. Jeff

    I picked olives to cure when I get home to eastern Washington. I’m wondering about temperature, its in the 40s outdoors. Is room temp good? Garage temp (60) better?

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  69. sue

    I’m trying to cure olives for the first time. I had difficult finding lye. Finally found some at a small hardware store, however, it did not heat up when I added it to the cold water. I tried it twice and nothing happened. Any suggestions?

  70. Hart Drobish

    Just a quick but important note. Olives cured but not cooked must remain in an open container with normal air exposure to the water they are in. Once cured with the lye, and without the natural acid in them, they can develop botulism if left in a closed container. Never put them in a container with a sealable lid. Like a fish, they need to breath some oxygen out of the water to prevent the anerobic bacteria from growing in them.

  71. Kathryn

    Hart, where is this information from. University of California’s guidelines for safe home preservation of olivesmakes no such mention for the lye method. In fact, they explicitly instruct using a sealed container. They do instruct a third brine change to a stronger solution (1.5 c. Salt/gal.), but that’s it. I’d love to see your citation. I like to be safe, but at this point trust UC.

  72. Kathryn

    Hank, these have been wonderful. I’ve now done 4 batches. Two of some very small green olives(between dime and penny diameter) and have found 6 hrs. in the lye to be perfect.

  73. Bryan

    Awesome post, Hank!
    I’m sourcing my ingredients as we speak.

    I’m also trying to figure out what non-reactive item to use to submerge the olives at the start of the lye soak.
    Sure, any glass, food-grade plastic, or stainless etc item will do, but have you found the lye at this proportion to etch or damage the items you use? Or have you ever used parchment paper for this step?
    Thanks in advance.

  74. todd krein

    Hank, tried a salt water brine last year with (at best) marginal results. Took the plunge and tried your Lye method this year. Simply amazing! Thanks so very much for laying it out oh-so-simply.

    Two questions for you (or anyone else here):
    1) My wife finds them too salty. After the second (first?) salt brine, can I reduce the amount of salt for storage?
    2) Can you give me an idea of just what you put in the seasoning brine? How much salt to water, amounts of spices, etc.? I’d hate to screw them up now…

  75. todd krein

    Bryan, I took a zip-lock bag, filled it with cold water, and laid it on top of the olives. it keeps them well submerged, and is dirt cheap.

  76. Courtney

    Hi Hank- we followed your recipe and love how the olives have turned out. Now wondering how to best pack them up to give as gifts. Is it best to jar using a pressure canner or is there another easier, while still safe method? What does everyone do with their lbs and lbs of olives?
    Thanks so much,
    Kris & Courtney

  77. Steele

    Dont worry about how salty your olives taste after 2nd treatment, better too much than not enough. I find it easy to soak the olives needed the day before. You can remove nearly all the salt if you soak them over 2 days, personally I find overnight is OK.

    After soaking simply roll them dry and add your oils herbs etc. These will keep in good condition in the fridge for up to a week, if they last that long?

    Greetings from Australia.

  78. Olen

    Caution: The fellow (Stuart) who said that 500 grams of lye won’t hurt you is, sorry to say, a bit off his rocker. I’m flabbergasted that he would encourage people to handle lye with bare hands! You don’t need to be hypersensitive to lye for it to dissolve your skin! Ignore his comments and follow the precautions given in the article. If Stuart was able to measure out a fistful of lye with his hands, without damage, it was only because his hands were completely dry, and he quickly washed off any of the powder that remained on his skin. Just because his recklessness didn’t cause him harm does not mean you’ll be so lucky. Most likely you will not walk away unscathed.

  79. Libby

    I’ve bought some olives in brine. How do I get rid of the horrible briny taste from them? Having read your article I am thinking of curing my own next time.

    All the best


  80. Sarah

    Hi! I’ve tried several methods of olive curing and was always leery of using lye. This recipe was wonderful and easy! I love how quickly they pick up the flavors of whatever you put in the jar. I used lemon slices and garlic and they are excellent paired with feta cheese and a lemon olive oil.
    I’m wondering about pitting them–has anyone had success with this? I’m considering buying a simple, cheap pitter and seeing how that goes…

  81. Diane

    Hi Hank, my olives are wonderful, but like Courtney I am wondering what to do next? I have 25lbs of olives cured in the second brine. Can I leave them like that until I use them like say till Dec. out of the fridge or do I need to can them, to preserve them? I now have them in 2 half full 5 gal containers that will not fit in my fridge.

  82. Chef Stella

    Hank You ROCK!! I live in Tucson, AZ and last year I harvested olives cured using water and brine. Took 6 months before they were edible. Just put 13 lbs in cure and can’t wait to mix up some brine. I brew my own vinegar and have made several batches of flavored vin which I use with salt, water and herbs to make different flavored olives. Suggestion to others….soak herbs, onions, hot peppers and spices in plain vinegar first to flavor. Strain out add to brine. The addition of acid has allowed for regular shelf storage. I have also salt dried my olives and then rehydrated them in brine later. Thanks for all the great tips all!

  83. amy

    Lye was hard to find thank god my grandma still has some it’s not sold in stores anymore

  84. Liz

    Growing up in Newcastle/Loomis area of northern California where there used to be a lot of old olive groves, a favorite annual treat was the big jar of homemade lye-cured olives a neighbor used to give us every year. I now live in Greece, home of the famous Kalamata, but I’ve never forgotten the taste of those olives from years ago. My in-laws think my memory must be failing. Olives? And LYE? We’re going to be doing a water and citric acid cure this year, but I’d really like to have a go at trying your recipe. The only problem is finding sodium hydroxide…I’ll keep searching. In the meantime, thanks for continuing to inform, entertain, and inspire. Great blog.

  85. Petra

    I found a goldmine worth of huge ripe black olives pounds and pounds I picked. Yet I noticed a worm crawl out of them and after cutting them opened found about 70% of them had worms. My question is can I cut out just the non infested pieces and cure them? Also many of them have pinpricks where the eggs have been laid but haven’t hatched(just a little discolored where the wholes are) – are those ones Okay?

    Also I’m using the Dry salt cure method. Will the Salt kill these parasites????

    Will doing a 3 min flash boil kill before I try to do a brine or water cure? Please give me some idea because I hate to let this source of olives be unusable.

    Perhaps maybe I should pick earlier in the season while they are still hard and green? Any ideas please let us know.

  86. Coco in the Kitchen

    This is awesome. I’m sending the link to my hubby!

  87. Robyn Westerman

    By gallon do you mean a US gallon which is 3.78 liters or UK gallon which is 4.54 liters?

  88. Carolyn

    Hank….Hi from New Zealand…..thanks so much for this blog post. We have an olive tree growing outside the gate, and so we picked a heap of olives and tried your lye cure. I’m also a soapmaker, so had NaOH, which made it easier. The olives are great so far – they are in the first brine stage. I’m looking forward to the flavouring part. Wish the olives were bigger – they’re quite small. I think I read somewhere that you can add about 1 cup of vinegar to 5 cups of brine for the final stage so I’ll try that, but any feedback you or your readers have on good vinegar/brine ratios would be a huge help… Thanks again for this post – really found it helpful!

  89. Andy

    Hi Robyn, Hank,

    I’m in Australia, so this is the olive season now. I used about a tablespoon of NaOH/lye (Diggers Caustic Soda 98%) to a litre of water. This seemed to work OK, and I don’t think the exact ratio is that critical.

    I found that 12 hours was not long enough and after checking the cure several times I ended up with about 48 hours. However the room was fairly cold, say 15C or 60F, and that does slow it down. Also the olives are large and maybe not so ripe. I sliced open an olive every 8 hours to check on the penetration of the cure.


  90. Oelof van Rensburg

    I am in the Western Cape South Africa . I tried the lye method two years ago , and after putting in brine , somehow forgot about this bucket full of olives . Well , I ” discovered ” it again a couple of weeks ago , and it has turned into the best best , smooth tasting green olives I have ever tasted . Started harvesting olives yesterday , and have decided to make a large quantity using the lye method . Enjoy !

  91. Marty Cole

    Thanks for the info!! How can you tell the difference between a ripe green olive and an unripe one?

  92. Marty

    Hi, Hank: Thanks for the response on olive ripeness. Here in Las Vegas, I believe it’s time right now, as we have some pretty hot Summer wx. I have a batch rinsing as we write! Blessings to you and yours,.

  93. Pam

    Everything else I’ve read says to cut a slit in the olives. You don’t do this with lye curing? My box of olives just arrived and I don’t want to mess them up. If a slit is needed could you just pit them first?

  94. Brian

    Just curious as to how long the olives will keep after they have been brined?

  95. Brian

    Hi Hank: Any chance that you have cured using lye made from wood ash? I guess I’m just curious if there is any noticeable difference in flavor/texture or if NaOH is NaOH regardless of the source. It seems like a bit of a lengthy process to get to usable lye, but, hey, I’m the type of person that will have to give it a whirl at least once. And, I just realized that I have an endless supply of wood ash to boot! Any insight or am just going down the rabbit hole?

  96. Marty

    Hi, Hank: Trouble in River City! Lye soak went fine; darkness cleared in about four days. But brining hasn’t done so well. Salt solution and olives are turning very dark, with what appears to be bacterial growth on the brine surface. I used a Kosher salt which contains “yellow prussiate of soda.” Any ideas? Thanks!

  97. Erin

    Hello from Canada Hank!

    I’m about to try this again this year (last year I had the same trouble as Marty above) . For the last brine (the flavoured one), would you be placing your olives into jars submerged in this brine for storage?

    Please wish me luck! I so desperately want this to work this time!

  98. Maurice Dowdell

    Oh my goodness, Hank, I did it!! I just cured my first batch of green olives in lye and it was suuuuuper easy. Only took 2 1/2 days!!! I’d read and heard so many thing that made it seem much more complicated and a little scary but dude!! It was sooo not. Thanks for your site. Gave key information throughout that proved vital such as the superfluity of doing the lye process 2-3 times… NOT! I did it one time letting them soak in the solution for about 18 hours and that totally did the trick. AND I didn’t have to rinse as often either I think because I used a cooler instead of a bucket so I rinse/soaked them in about 3 times as much water. By the third rinse this morning they were buttery, gorgeous, and ready to pickle. Hallelujah! this is awesome!!!

  99. Paul Wheeler

    I’ve been using your method for three years with fabulous results. Last year I canned 5 gallons of olives. They turn out great! This year my wife and I picked 15 gallons. Starting the lye process today. Thanks for the information!

  100. Karen

    Hi. I tried this recipe but we must have messed up. Our olives are soft and squishy. We are trying it again. Is the second brining the time to put them in Jars? Do you do a cold pack? And is this when you add the flavoring? I must need more instruction.

  101. Anthony

    How much salt per gallon for the first brine?

  102. sophie

    Hi hank!scored several gallons of nice green olives a few weeks ago, separated them by size, and have been lye curing them with your recipe for the last few days, but I’m stumped about a couple things. For one, many of my olives near the bottom of the jars I’m using have turned very soft and bright yellow after a few days soaking. I tossed them since they were so soft, is it because the lye at the bottom was too strong, and I didn’t stir them enough? Another jar seems to have the opposite oroblem, maybe the lye bath was too weak, and they are still very hard. If I salt brine these now, will the soft become super soft and the hard take a lot longer? Should I wait to add spices or vinegar if the hard ones haven’t soften up in a week or 2? Thanks!I’m a noob!

  103. Liz Tsirigoti

    Hi, Hank. I’ve got several kilos of large Kalamatas to process so I’ll be trying the lye cure this year – the first batch is sitting in a lye bath tonight. Reading through the comments, it sounds like a 12 hour like soak might not be long enough for this larger variety of olive. Can I just let them soak longer in the same gallon of lye bath, or do I need to rinse the olives, then make up a fresh lye/cold water mixture? Thanks!

  104. Andrea Jadwin

    Hank, this process worked perfectly for me! My favorite olives are the mild green variety, like Cerignola, that taste of olive and a bit of salt. The kind you pay $7 a pound for at the upscale grocery store;-) Followed your instructions pretty closely and was able to move about 3.75 pounds of green olives to the first salt brine step after four days; using 100% lye household ‘drain opener’ and my 2 gallon Igloo thermos. The texture is perfect and some day maybe I’ll know how long they last in the fridge (if I could stop eating them). My olives came from a San Joaquin Valley orchard via a farmer at the Inner Sunset Farmers’ Market. He’s bringing me 5 more pounds next week – now I’m hooked.

  105. Kug

    My olives are on the small side. What amounts should I mix for the brine process. Would it be less than what is posted of 3/4 cup salt to 1 gallon water and 1 cup salt to 1 gallon water.

  106. todd krein

    I “found” a jar that I had brined last year, using rosemary, peppercorns, bay, chille pepper, and the left over skins from making lemoncello. They had been sitting under the counter for the last nine months. I had put them there as they were still quite bitter, and I didn’t know what to do with them.

    Yum! Some were a little soft, but an extra half year in brine has made them perfect.

  107. David Bishop

    Hi Hank, thanks for your time and information on olives! After reading through this blog I just thought to add that measuring lye by weight rather than volume would be a way to get a more consistent result.
    The U.C. Davis Ag Division recommends 2 oz. lye to 1 gallon water, which is what I use. For those on the metric side of things 1 Liter is roughly 1 quart (.95 qt) and 1 gallon is about 4 liters. And 2 oz. is roughly 56 grams and I haven’t had enough coffee to do the rest of the math, but there’s enough there to figure out proportions.
    I make enough to cover the olives plus 2″ of additional lye mixture, using 5 gallon food grade buckets and use dinner plates (which fit nicely inside) to hold the olives under. 12 hours, then cut one to test for penetration. Larger olives usually go another 1/2 day, smaller olives a few hours less.
    I also realize my follow up brine was too concentrated, causing the skins to wrinkle, so I’ll try the less briny solution you use and hopefully get a smoother skin.
    thanks again!

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