Three Great Western Wars ago, the trees were heavy with olives, so I picked some and went on my very first olive journey. Last year, the olives were all gone... this year, there were olives again! So, we picked olives :) About 25% ripe or mostly ripe olives, and 75% green or mostly green olives. I have never worked with ripe olives before (and I DETEST black olives), so of course, I'm experimenting, like you do. (Some of the pictures are sideways because my phone is dumb).
First, I had to decide what to do with the ripe olives, as they were only getting riper.. Columella writes of an easy salted olive recipe (take the olives, place them in salt, let dry, store) that is also reflected in my favorite UC Davis Extension document on olives- so that's what I did. I put the olives in a food-safe container with copious amounts of salt, and they will sit like that (with semi-frequent mixings to make sure everything is salty) until they look dry :)
The green olives are something I've played with before, so this time I decided to get a little Scientist on them. Raw olives have an acid named oleuropein in them which gives them an extremely bitter taste. Olives are generally debittered before being eaten- by water baths, salt baths, or lye (a base to neutralize the acid). The Romans mentioned using lye (ash water) and natron (a complex mineral similar to baking soda) to process olives- and lacking lye or the desire to use it, half of the green olives went in a baking soda and water solution (basic, to neutralize the acid) and the other half went in a water solution (to leech out the acid naturally). I have done water baths before to great success, but I have never actually tried to neutralize the acid rather than to remove it... so, stay tuned as my Roman food chemistry experiment continues! :D
CONTINUED: November 26 2016
I checked on the green olives on a weekly basis- the olives in the basic solution did de-bitter much faster than the simple water solution (about 2 weeks faster). The green olives were all ready for storage by Thanksgiving. Today, November 26, I put up the black salted olives in oil for storage- my father in law tried some and declared them "good"! Experiments complete and successful :)
Day 9 (water cured top, base solution bottom)
Week 3 (water cured top, base solution bottom)
Week 6, olives ready for jarring (added vinegar to this brine to cover)
Week 7, black olives- bottom one has been rolled in olive oil for preservation.