Home » How to dehydrate olives - Step by step

How to dehydrate olives - Step by step

How to dehydrate olives - Step by step

When it comes to olives, most people either love them or hate them, but unless you’ve tried them dried, you’re in no position to make a definitive decision.

Olives are small, pitted fruits that are related to mangoes and peaches, though they don’t taste anything like it. They are very nutritious and very popular in the Mediterranean diet, but most commercially grown olives are used to produce olive oil.

If you’ve ever had the experience of ripping an olive straight off the tree and popping it into your mouth, you’ve probably regretted it. Fresh olives are very bitter and almost inedible, so they are always cured before eating, often with a brine or dried.

But can olives be dehydrated? Regardless of how they are cured, you can also dehydrate olives for a surprisingly simple and completely flavorful twist on a common food item, and this article will teach you exactly how to dehydrate them.

types of olives

Before going into the dehydration process, it is important to know what type of olives you have to work with. You can honestly dehydrate almost any olive, including oiled or picked olives, but it’s good to know where you start because all olives taste slightly different.

If you are used to buying olives in the supermarket, you have probably seen black olives and green olives of different sizes.  The difference between black and green olives is nothing more than the time of collection. Green olives are simply less ripe, they are picked at the beginning of the harvest season and not at the end.

However, there are varieties that depend above all on their genetics and the place where they have been bred. Some of the more popular ones that can be found in most supermarkets are

  • Kalamata , which are deep purple Greek olives that are typically preserved in red wine or red wine vinegar, giving them a unique, rich, fruity flavor
  • Manzanillas are the most common green olives, coming from Spain, which you will often find stuffed
  • Canned Ripe Black Olives typically come from California and are picked green and then ripened through an artificially induced oxidation process.

You can often find special blended olives as well, usually blended from the region in which they are grown. Italy, Spain and France are major producers of specialty olives.

The biggest difference is in the curing of the olives, including when they were harvested, whether they are dried or pickled, what is used to flavor and preserve, and how long the fermentation process lasts.

Why dehydrate olives?

Dehydrating olives is not the same as drying them in the first place. Drying is a type of curing, and is similar to dehydration, but they still retain some moisture. Dehydration absorbs all the water content of the olives.

Why would you want to do it? For a few good reasons.

First of all, it is simply something new and different, giving you a new way of using the olives.

It is also a great way to preserve your olives, if they are fresh, retaining most of the natural vitamins and minerals without adding unnecessary preservatives. Dehydration eliminates the chance for bacteria to grow because there is no moisture to feed on.

Dehydrated foods of all varieties are very popular with backpackers and people who need to be prepared for emergency situations where they may be without power for long periods of time.

By removing the water content, you drastically reduce the weight and size of the olives, allowing you to pack a large portion into a tiny, very light container. This is useful when you’re trying to pack a lot of food into a backpack, and when it comes to olives, it ensures you don’t have to give up flavor just because you’re going on a hike.

Dried olives, in particular, are a great emergency food source because they are high in fiber, sodium, iron, and vitamin E, all very useful micronutrients.

How to dehydrate olives

Now that you know the what and why of dehydrating olives, let’s get down to work. Depending on the type of olive you start with, you may need to do a little prep work before dehydrating them. From there, you can use a dehydrator, your oven, or your freezer to complete the process.

How to prepare olives for dehydration

If you have freshly picked olives from the tree, you will have to destem and pit them. Put them in boiling water for about 3 minutes, then drain and rinse. You will need to season them before dehydrating them and the easiest way to do this is to let them sit in a brine of 1 gallon of water plus 1 pound of salt for 3 days.

If your olives are prepared in a brine, strain them into a strainer to remove the brine, then pat them dry with a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible.

If you have olives prepared in oil, you will first need to rinse them to remove as much oil as possible. Then pat them dry.

Before dehydrating them, it is best to cut the olives into thin slices, so that they dehydrate quickly and evenly. You can also cut them into smaller pieces, if you prefer.

Dehydrate olives in a dehydrator

If you have a food dehydrator, set the temperature to 125F. Arrange the slices or pieces of olive in an even row and let them dehydrate for 4-6 hours.

If you work with freshly picked olives, it is likely that you will have to dehydrate them for a longer time; some people leave them in the dehydrator for 3-4 days, moving them at least once a day.

How to use the oven to dehydrate olives

Preheat your oven to 250F or slightly less if your oven is hot. Spread the sliced or diced olives in a single even layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. You can also use a silicone baking sheet without the parchment paper if you have one.

Let the olives dry in the oven for 3-5 hours. Check them periodically and remove them when they are completely dehydrated, but not dry to a powder.

How to make freeze dried olives

Food freeze drying is the process of dehydrating, or removing all moisture, within an extremely cold environment. You can get it with a specialized machine, or you can take your chances in one of two alternative ways. Machines can cost upwards of $2,500, so let’s assume you don’t have one of your own. If you have it, it should come with a great set of instructions. If that is not the case…

  1. Use your home freezer
    1. This is what will take the longest and requires an empty freezer for best results.
    2. Prepare the olives as if you were going to use the oven, but instead of putting them in the preheated oven, place the tray in the freezer
    3. For best results, keep the freezer temperature as low as possible and leave the door unopened for a week or two while the olives are dehydrating.
    4. Your olives will freeze quickly, but they can take weeks to fully dehydrate.
    5. Normally, you check if the food is well dehydrated by removing a small piece and seeing if it turns black when defrosted
    6. If you’re working with black olives, you’ll need to watch closely for any color changes: completely dry foods don’t change color when thawed.
    7. When your olives are well dehydrated, you can store them in airtight containers or Ziploc bags, keeping them in a cool, dark place.
  2. use dry ice

    1. If you are impatient and brave, you can also freeze-dry them using dry ice, which evaporates the moisture from the olives quite quickly.
    2. Get a pair of heavy-duty insulated gloves and a large container at least twice the size of your baking sheet full of olives.
    3. Place your tray in the bottom of the container, then cover it completely with dry ice.
    4. Leave the container uncovered so that the gas can escape and the moisture can evaporate.
    5. Once all the dry ice has evaporated, usually in less than 24 hours, especially with small batches, your olives should be properly freeze-dried.
    6. Wearing gloves, carefully remove the baking sheet and store your olives in airtight Ziploc bags.

The best seasoning for dehydrated dried olives

There are many uses for dehydrated olives, but the two most common preparation styles are going to be to rehydrate them slightly by mixing them with oil and seasonings or leave them as a chunky mix to coat.

Keep in mind that the seasonings used in the original curing process may be enough flavor for you when dehydrated. Take a sample before adding any other seasoning.

If you mix your dried olive slices with oil, you may want to marinate some fresh or dried herbs with your olives, such as

  • fresh garlic
  • dried chili
  • citrus zest
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano

If you are chopping the olives to use as a garnish, consider mixing them with any of the dried herbs above, or possibly one of the following:

  • Salt and pepper
  • dry garlic
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • Poppy seeds

Health benefits of olives

Dehydrating foods helps preserve much of the nutritional value, so olives can be a tasty and healthy addition to any meal. They are often used in the Mediterranean diet and have been shown to have many benefits, especially for heart health and even cancer prevention.

The main fatty acid found in olives is oleic acid, which has been shown to help regulate cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, two important factors in keeping the heart healthy. Olives are also high in a wide variety of antioxidants, which reduce inflammation, the root cause of almost all chronic diseases, including some cancers.

Olives are considered a low carbohydrate fruit, which makes them suitable for the diet. More importantly, many of the carbs in olives come from fiber, which is not used by your body for fuel, making the digestible net carb content of olives even lower. Basically, this means that they will have very little impact on your blood sugar levels and therefore insulin activity.

Finally, olives are packed with vitamins and minerals that support health in a variety of ways. There are very few, if any, drawbacks to this tasty treat.

What foods can be dehydrated at home?

Almost any food can be dehydrated, either with an oven or machine, but if you’re just starting out, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats are the place to start.

For fruits and vegetables, cut them into small pieces or slices before dehydrating, and keep lean meats thinly sliced. You can season the food before dehydrating it if you plan to eat it as a dry snack in the future, or leave it tasteless if you plan to rehydrate it later, in a soup, for example.

Can you make olive oil with black olives?

Most olive oils are made from a mix of green and black olives. Green olives have a more characteristic flavor, but their oil content is lower, so mixing them with black olives increases yield and softens the flavor.

What is olive powder?

Olive powder is basically dried or dehydrated olives powdered with seasonings. You can make your own by placing dried or dehydrated olives in a small food processor or chopper and grinding them into a chunky powder.

Mix it with salt and any other seasoning mixes you like for your own version of olive powder.