Lye Process For Green-Ripe Olives (for curing fresh olives)

This process will produce straw-yellow to green or brown olives. Choose fruit that is green, straw-colored, or cherry-red. Do not use black-ripe fruit because it is likely to become soft when pickled. We do sell fresh green olives in season, if you don’t see any for sale, that means they are not in season yet.  We keep our website, FaceBook page and Twitter page updated on fresh olive availability.


  • Prepare a solution of 2 ounces (about 4 level tablespoons) of *lye to each gallon of water. Use a wooden, glass, or stoneware container. Never use an aluminum container because *lye will ruin it or a galvanized metal container because the zinc will dissolve and may make the olives poisonous. Stir the solution until the *lye is well dissolved.
  • Cover the olives with the *lye solution at noon the first day. Place a towel or cloth over them and push it down tightly to keep the olives submerged. You can judge the amount of penetration, after over night processing, by cutting sample olives to the pit with a sharp knife. The *lye solution discolors the flesh to a yellowish-green color. If the *lye has not reached the pits by the next morning, remove the *lye solution, then cover the olives with a new *lye solution of one ounce (about 2 level tablespoons) of *lye per gallon of water and let stand until the *lye reaches the pits completely. This should reach the pits before 5:00 PM that day, but check the olives every couple of hours.
  • Remove the *lye solution and discard it. Pour it down the toilet and flush several times or carefully pour down a sink drain followed by rinsing with cold water.
  • Rinse the olives twice in cold water, and then cover them with cold water. Change the water each day until the rinse water has no brownish color. This may take as long as 5 or 6 days. Expose the olives to air as little as possible during the *lye treatment or washing.
  • Prepare a salt brine containing 4 ounces (about 6 1/2 level tablespoons) of salt per 1 gallon of water. Dissolve the salt thoroughly and cover the olives with the solution. Let it stand for 2 days.

The olives are then ready for use. Store them in a cold place, preferably in a refrigerator.

*LYE WARNING: Handle with care! Lye is very caustic and can cause serious burns! Use lemon or vinegar (acidic) to neutralize lye that splashes onto the skin. If lye gets into the eyes, rinse the eyes with running water and call the doctor. If lye is swallowed, call the doctor, drink milk or egg whites – do NOT induce vomiting.

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One Response to Lye Process For Green-Ripe Olives (for curing fresh olives)

  1. jsherman665 says:

    This recipe for curing the Lucques olives is really tops. Don’t worry about the use of lye, I make soap and lye is a necessary ingredient.

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