General Question

kfingerman's avatar

Why are my olives spotted/blotchy?

Asked by kfingerman (982 points ) January 13th, 2010

I’m curing olives in salt brine. We picked them both green and brown. Soon they had developed a mottled or blotchy appearance. I went through them for olive fly infestation, so that’s not it. I don’t know that they’ll taste bad, but it looks funky. Any ideas?

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5 Answers

Darwin's avatar

All I know is that white spots may mean the olives have been affected by a fungus, and brown spots may mean oxidation or bruising.

kfingerman's avatar

brown spots. Oxidation sounds about right. Will it mess with their taste? Is there any way to “fix” it or at least to prevent it next time? Thanks

Darwin's avatar

According to one canned olive company:

What are the brown spots on Lindsay Naturals Green Ripe Olives?

These spots are natural bruising and freckling that occur in picking/harvesting. The olives are still delicious and safe to eat. Black olives also have these bruises but this bruising is not visible because of the olive’s dark color.

Where do you get your olives? You say that you picked them: assuming that the spots are bruises, is it possible to make sure your olives are more gently handled?

UC Davis says that olives stored too long before processing may also develop brown spots. How long have the olives been picked before you start to process them? UC Davis says to store them between 40 and 51 degrees F. for less than two weeks.

Then, many companies actually use oxidation to turn green olives black, and then they use Ferrous gluconate to keep them black. These companies use an alkaline medium to spur oxidation. I would suspect then, that making your curing medium slightly acidic might help keep oxidation from happening. Have you considered adding a touch of vinegar to the brine in an experimental batch? Even a touch of Vitamin C could work as an antioxidant. Olives are supposed to contain natural antioxidants but perhaps yours are low on these? It is hard to say.

Do you have a county extension agent near where you live, or an agricultural college? Either might have staff members who could analyze your olives or supply you with tips. Good luck.

kfingerman's avatar

Thanks @Darwin, that’s super useful. I’m just home-curing them as a hobby, so I don’t think I’ll track down an extension agent, but practice makes perfect.

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