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)


  • 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 (1 L) olive oil


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.


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.


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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