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Lye-Cured Green Olives Recipe

User Rating 4 Star Rating (2 Reviews)


Many olives are cured using lye. It is time-consuming but worth the effort, especially if you have an olive tree.


  • Mature green olives (see instructions)
  • Lye
  • Water
  • Salt


Use olives that are mature but still green. Purchase lye in the "cleanser" section of your grocery store. (See Warning below.) Rinse the olives with water and place them in large glass or porcelain jars; then determine how much lye solution you need to cover the amount of olives you have. Add a solution that has been mixed at the ratio of 1 quart water (at 65 to 70 degrees F.) to 1 tablespoon lye. Soak 12 hours.

Drain olives; then soak 12 more hours in fresh lye solution. Drain and rinse. Cut into the largest olive; if the lye has reached the pit, the lye cure is complete. Rinse again and soak in cold water. (Usually two lye baths are enough for the small Mission olives seen in specialty produce stores.) If one more bath is necessary, soak in fresh lye solution for 12 more hours; then drain and rinse with cold water. Soak the olives in fresh, cold water, changing the water three (or more) times a day for the next three days. At the end of three days, taste an olive to make sure that there is no trace of lye flavor remaining.

Next, soak the olives for at least one day in a brine solution mixed at the ratio of 6 tablespoons salt to 1 gallon water. The olives are now ready for eating. Store the rest in the brine solution in a cool, dark place, preferably the refrigerator, or marinate and store in the refrigerator. Use within two months.

WARNING: Lye can cause serious burns. Keep lemon or vinegar handy to neutralize any lye that splashes onto the skin. If lye gets into your eyes, bathe them with running water and call your doctor. If lye is swallowed, call your doctor, drink milk or egg white, and do not induce vomiting.

Recipe Source: The Feast of the Olive by Maggie Blyth Klein (Aris Books)
Reprinted with permission.

User Reviews

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 3 out of 5
lye-cured green olives, Member oliveqn57

I suggest you mix your lye and let it set for approximately 45 minutes or until it has gone thru its reaction phase and cools down. Otherwise, you may burn the skin on the olives resulting a peeling of the skin. Additionally, I use only one mix of lye, however, I let it set on the olives until it reaches the pit, never do I have to use another mix. Depending on how ""ripe"" the green olives are makes a difference on how long you must lye them. To tell if they are ready to pick they will turn from a solid green to a ""harvest green"" somewhat with a yellow or harvest tinge to them. I usually have to lye my olives for 19 to 22 hours.

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