Though they’re grown on the west coast, raw olives are rarely found at produce markets. This is because you can’t pop them raw like candy: they’re filled with a supremely bitter substance called oleuropein that gets obliterated by manufacturers during the curing process, with a hefty dose of lye. The mission olives seen here, found and purchased at Three Guys from Brooklyn, are the worst oleuropein offenders of all, because the green fruit is the most unripe kind. Regardless, these olives are waiting for you. If you listen closely to the tidal winds sweeping off Fort Hamilton Parkway, you can hear the olives calling. "Cure us," they sigh, "We’ll taste good."
The search for a decent home-curing method for fresh olives can quickly dissolve into an odyssey of water baths and kosher salt brines. Beware the epic scourge of mold, which threatens to ruin your bounty of green missions outright. Vigilance is required. Start your home-curing experiment with plain tap water: after scoring and soaking them, the more often you change the water for the first week, the more bitter oleuropein you’ll leech out.
The curing process, with bonus mix-ins like fennel seed, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf, or whatever you want, will come afterward. Here are a few short form, step-by-step olive curing links, and from UC Davis comes the indispensable "Publication 8267," otherwise known as the home olive curer’s skeleton key.
Green California Mission olives are $42 for a 16 pound box, or $2.79 a pound at Three Guys, 65th Street at Fort Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn (718) 748-8340. Harvest season is September-November, but call ahead for availability: the fresh olive crop this year is exceptionally light. Fresh olives can sometimes also be found at Teitel Brothers on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.