How to Crack Olives the Fun Way

by Sarah on December 9, 2010

Cracked souri olives

Cracked souri olives

There are two ways of cracking olives, the fast way and the slow way.

The slow way is time well spent, especially when done outside on a warm autumn day. And if you have an olive cracking assistant it is the most pleasant of jobs.

smashing olives with rock


The olives need to be smashed just so, any harder sends the pit flying and the reason why my older boys were not allowed to help. Now my favorite kitchen gadget is a beautiful piece of golden calcite which is indispensible during olive season or whenever I am cooking one of Paula Wolfert’s Moroccan recipes. In fact, she suggested this method to me and it worked so well I thought it was genius.

cracked olives

Alternatively, a fistful of olives can be placed in a plastic bag and wacked with a wide, flat hammer, the kind used to tenderize steaks or flatten chicken breasts. I have never tried this method yet.

The fast way uses a special machine, such as the one at the Jerusalem Bazaar, where the olives are poured in from one end and rumble out the other, all perfectly cracked. This might save a lot of time but it isn’t nearly as fun.

olive cracking machine

Olive cracking machine, Old City, Jerusalem

olives, old city jerusalem

Like in ancient times, Olives being sold in Old City, Jerusalem

Why do the olives need to be cracked in the first place?

All olives, especially green ones, contain oleuropein, an extremely bitter water soluble compound. Cracking or slitting olives facilitates its removal by creating more surface area for it to escape. One method is to soak the olives in water for 7-10 days so the oleuropein dissolves into it. Although not poisonous, anyone who has eaten olives right off the tree knows that olives are inedible if not properly treated.  When using the lye method to cure olives, slitting or cracking is not necessary.

Other interesting posts on olive curing techniques

Curing olives using the water method and varieties common in Israel

Interesting articles on curing olives in Oyster Culture ,  Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and Cafe Liz

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Miriam/The Winter Guest December 9, 2010 at 1:30 pm

I love your cracking tool! And assistant too…


Sarah December 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Thanks Miriam!


Yael the Finn December 10, 2010 at 5:55 am

LOvely pictures!A friend of mine had a garden with olive trees,while I was still living in Finland,and few times I visited here during the olive picking time.I collected some too and used a hammer! The olives were then cured back in Finland, and my co-workers were very impressed…..;D


OysterCulture December 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm

My RSS feed died, so I lost track of updates. Great minds think alike in the olive front. I’m on to soaking my olives in a nice salty brine solution and I just cannot wait to sample my first attempt.

I love seeing the way you approach the process, and that picture with your son is precious. When you say “extremely bitter” in your post, that is no exaggeration. My the first time I sampled after a month of faithfully soaking the olives was a shock to be sure.

It will probably be a few more weeks before mine are truly ready and then I’ll probably wish I had made more – fingers crossed.


Sarah December 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Olives here I have noticed are more bitter than the ones I tried in Europe (London) and the States, that’s how they prefer them


Sara December 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Lovely post and an equally adorable helper you have! :)


Sarah December 15, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Thanks Sara, It took a long time but he liked doing it


Liz December 19, 2010 at 5:33 am

That’s a great way to make the 4-year-old feel special :-)


Joe September 26, 2012 at 3:07 am

Thanks Sarah for this educative info. I have just one question though. Would it be alright if after washing the olives and starting the curing process (using water and salt) I pit them?


Sarah September 26, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I’ve never removed the olives pits but I don’t think it would be a problem. The only thing- the olives might not hold their shape in the process.


Joe October 2, 2012 at 10:49 am

Thank you very much for your reply


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