Fresh olives are available to people living in parts of Europe, the Middle East, the southern USA and probably other places. If you are in the southern US where olive trees are used in landscaping watch for them and ask the owners if you can have the olives when they are ripe. They'll probably be happy to have them removed so they won’t litter the ground. Keep a record of where you get your olives so that you can go back to the trees that have the best olives. Some are decidedly better than others! In some places you can plant your own trees, but be sure to find out about local regulations, as in some places planting is now banned due to the allergy problems.
Sorry to say, I don’t know the source for all of these recipes. My dad has cured his own olives on numerous occasions and has canned them to make them last longer (see photo). Some batches have been very good while others were more than some of us could tolerate (usually bitter). My dad always used a salt brine method for curing. He may have used vinegar on them when canning.
Collect the olives as ripe as possible. Slash or stamp each olive with the side of a knife or board to make an opening, then soak in cold water in earthenware or glass containers for 10 days, changing the water daily. Soak in a brine solution for 24 hours, then wash off the brine and soak for 24 hours in vinegar. Drain. Store in jars in olive oil. This method will preserve olives indefinitely. (If sourer olives are preferred, add a little vinegar to the oil).
Choose red to dark red olives, slash them on one side with a very sharp stainless knife to reduce bruising. Place the olives in any non-metallic container. Make a solution of 1/4 cup salt dissolved in 1 quart water (you will need to increase this for large amounts of olives), and pour enough over the olives to immerse them. Make sure the olives are completely submerged in the solution. Store in a cool place, changing the solution once a week, for three weeks. Any scum that forms on the surface is harmless, just rinse the container and the olives in fresh water if some forms.
Taste one of the largest at the end of three weeks. If only slightly bitter (should still be a bit tangy), pour off the brine and rinse the olives. If still quite bitter, re-brine for another week.
Marinade for Olives (use same container)
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 tbs salt dissolved in 2 cups water
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 lemon wedges
2 cloves garlic
Pour marinade over the olives and float enough olive oil to form a layer 1/4 inch on top. The olives will be ready to eat after sitting in the marinade for a few days. Store in a cool place or in fridge. (Warning: if kept too long, the lemon and vinegar flavors will predominate, so eat within a month after ready.)
“Dry” Salting Method
Place washed olives in a wicker basket or a plastic container with holes. Cover with medium-coarse salt. Set basket in sun and protect with a cheesecloth cover. Twice a day for a week, toss olives to redistribute them, until the bitter fluid is drawn from them. Bring olives in at night to prevent mold.
Cover washed olives with a solution of salt water - 1 cup salt to each quart water - in a crock or glass jar. Place a weight, such as a small plate or washed rock, to keep olives submerged. Olives may remain in this brine for months. Marinate in Olive Marinade before serving.
[editors note: not slashing the olives can result in a strong flavor.]
Strongly Salted Olives
Wash and dry the olives. Place in a container in layers, alternating with dry rock or sea salt, using about 300 grams of salt per kilo of olives. Cover and leave for six months. The salt will extract liquid from the olives, leaving them shriveled. Before eating the olives, rinse in plain water, or soak for a few hours. These olives have a much stronger taste than the first ones.