Sicilian-Style Olive Curing Recipe


Sicilian-style olives are similar to the common Spanish-style cocktail olives but are a bit more bitter because they are only fermented in brine that has been seasoned with various herbs and spices. Commercially prepared cocktail olives are generally cured with lye, which removes more of the bitterness. This recipe works well with ripe green olives such as Sevillano. Discard any olives with color (rose or red-brown); they will soften and will not hold up the the curing process. 

Supplies needed

  • Green-ripe olives (usually Sevillano)
  • Dill pickle spices or desired seasonings (i use oregano)
  • Pickling salt (kosher salt or sea salt will do. Just be sure the only ingredient is salt)
  • Vinegar (5% acetic acid)
  • Airtight, food-grade container (I prefer glass canning jars)
  • 1 gallon container for brine (stainless steel works best as some materials may react with the vinegar)


1. Sort the olives according to size, if desired, and discard any bruised or defective fruit. 

2. Pack the olives into quart or half-gallon glass jars that can be made airtight, or place larger amounts in food-grade pails or barrels with tight fitting lids. 

3. To each container add seasonings as desired. You may want to add dill pickle spices - use about 1 level tablespoon per quart jar or 1 rounded tablespoon per 2 quart jar. You may also try adding a little fennel seed (1/2 teaspoon per quart) or a sprig of fresh dill or chopped garlic, peppercorns, whole dried chili peppers as desired. For my recipe i added 1 1/2 tsp of oregano, 1 slice of lime, 1 smashed garlic clove per pint jar.

4. Prepare brine. The amount of salt to use depends on the size of the olives. For large olives (ie Sevillano and Ascolano) which shrivel easy in a strong salt brine, prepare a medium-strong brine with 10 ounces (1 cup of pickling salt) per gallon of cool water. For small olives (ie Manzanillo or Mission varieties), which do not shrivel easily in salt brines, prepare a strong brine with 1 pound of salt (1 1/2 cups) per gallon of cool water. 

5. Add about 2 cups of vinegar to each gallon of brine. Cover the olives in the jars (or barrels) with the brine-vinegar mixture and loosely close the lids. I generally add a bit of good quality olive oil on top of each jar before closing my lid. 

6. Store the olives in the brine at about 70 degrees F for about 2 months, checking on them at regular intervals. I generally check mine every 2 weeks. Fermentation will be most rapid at temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees F. During the initial period of active fermentation (4 or 5 days), when a large amount of gas forms and excessive foaming and frothing occur, take care to replace any lost brine. Keep the containers full of brine at all times. 

7. When gas bubbles stop forming (within 2 months), tighten container lids firmly and store for at least another 2 to 4 months or until the olives develop the flavor you desire. I like my olives a little on the bitter side, so I generally begin to enjoy them around month 3. If i find they are too salty for my liking, I make a weaker brine solution and refill the jars. 

8. These Sicilian-style green olives can be stored in a cool, dark place for at least 1 year in brine when properly fermented, if the jars remain airtight (to minimize surface yeast and mold growth).

Our olives rarely last a year. If you find you have more than you need, these make excellent gifts for any occasion. 




This recipe is courtesy of UCDavis Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Additional resources

UC Food Safety at UC Davis provides information about food safety and has links to resources on home food preservation.

Research on food preservation is ongoing - recommendations may change. Make sure your food preservation method is always current.



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