The first time I made olives in Israel was while I was in the army. There were some olive trees on my base and I picked all the olives and made some really good varieties. My army buddies hated the base we were serving at so much they refused to eat the olives, but they missed out on a good batch. The second time I made olives I picked the olives from Ramat HaNadiv, near Zichron Ya'akov. Those also came out very well. This year I picked olives from my friend Yarden's olive trees at his home in Shaked. Yarden actually has an olive orchard just outside of Shaked, but they're young trees and won't bear fruit for a few more years. I have no doubt they'll be excellent olives when they'll be ready, but in the meantime the trees in his front yard are just fine.
Making olives is really, really, really easy. First, just pick them. Then, in order for them to soften and soak up flavors you have to make a slit in each one or crush them. Most people take their olives to a place with a crushing machine. These machines make slits in the olives automatically. I like to punish myself, so I make a slit in each one on my own. It takes a bit of time, but you feel more of a connection to each olive this way;-)
Once you've made a slit, somehow, in all of the olives put them in a bowl and cover them with water. The olives will start turning from the bright green color they are on the trees when ripe to the darker olive green color one is used to seeing when eating olives. This will take about a week to two weeks and you need to replace the water each day during this time.
Once your olives are the right olive green color you get to flavor them. Put them in an airtight jar and cover them only to the top with water. For each cup of water needed add one spoonful of salt. At this point you can add whatever you want to them. Lemon and garlic, hot pepper, red wine, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and the list can go on forever. This year I'm keeping it simple with just lemon and really hot peppers that I also picked from Yarden's garden. Once you have everything mixed around together cover the jar so its air tight and put it in a cabinet for at least 3 weeks and even up to a year. The longer the better. I usually wait a couple of months at least before opening them up.
The olives with the lemon, hot pepper, salt and olive oil. They're ready to soak up flavors for the next few months.
Next weekend I'm going back to Shaked to harvest olives for oil. Stay tuned for my post on that. Also....stay stuned for my post in a few months when the olives are ready.