Cured Olives (Olives Piquées) Recipe

Cured Olives (Olives Piquées)

I was debating whether I should publish this recipe at all. Nearly impossible to get freshly harvested olives in the US unless you are on the West Coast. So, here we go, a recipe to prepare your own cured olives as instructed by my friends in Valréas in the Northern Provence. They own quite a few olive trees and told me that this procedure has been practiced for many generations. This recipe only works with freshly harvested and fully matured olives.

Quantity: 6 lbs (2.7 kg)

Ingredients:

US MeasuresMetric
  • 6 lbs (2 3/4 kg) freshly harvested unblemished black olives
  • 3 – 5 Tbsp fine sea salt (don’t use coarse salt)
  • 1 tsp summer savory
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 – 3 bay leaves
  • 4 cups olive oil
  • 2 3/4 kg freshly harvested unblemished black olives
  • 3 – 5 Tbsp fine sea salt (don’t use coarse salt)
  • 1 tsp summer savory
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 – 3 bay leaves
  • 1 L olive oil

Preparation:

This is the recipe used in the Drôme Provençale for mature black Tanche olives. Don’t use this recipe for green olives. There are 3 steps we need to follow: pricking the olives, dry curing and marinating.

Pricking: 

To “pique” means to prick with a needle and this is what we do first. Each olive needs to be pricked several times with a needle or toothpick so that the bitter juices can be extracted by the salt later on. Here is a shortcut I learned from Élodie’s husband who is in charge of the “pique” process: Take a champagne cork and insert a couple of toothpicks at the top part and you get a veritable porcupine. Suddenly the pique process is fun! Just pique away for 20 minutes and you are done with the 6 lbs (3 kg) of the freshly harvested black olives we want to prepare here.

Dry Curing:

Place the pricked olives in a ceramic or plastic container, mixing them well with initially 2 tablespoons of salt. Place the open container in a dark, cool and airy place. Make sure that during the 10-15 day process you stir the olives well once a day. On the 2nd day add another 1 tablespoon of salt. On the 4th day taste for salt and add more if necessary. At the end of 15 days, the olives should have lost their bitterness and have a slightly salty taste. Discard any purplish liquid that leached out of the olives. Don’t rinse them under cold water.

Marinating:

Place the olives in the marinade made of olive oil seasoned with summer savory (sariette), tarragon, thyme, bay leaves. Let them soak for 3 – 4 days in a cool place or the fridge. You can prepare the marinade using a different combination of spices. Substitute one or more of the above spices with garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, coriander or fennel seeds. You can also make it stronger by adding a larger quantity of spices. I like the quantity I listed above – you can still taste the olive proper.

Olives Piquées are relatively easy and quick to make. But they need to be kept in a dark, cool place and consumed within 2 – 3 months. It’s not that the olives deteriorate, it’s the olive oil that might get rancid. I put them in the fridge, where they last for 12 months until the next olive harvest.

In the Northern Provence – the Vaucluse and Drôme Provençale – the Tanche olives are harvested after the first frost, normally during December and January. More than likely the harsh Mistral is blowing and the sky shows this sweep-clean blue much admired by painters like van Gogh.

Mt.Ventoux in the Northern Provence during Winter

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