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Many types of olives are to be found in Spain and always accompany hors-d'oeuvres. Some of the best don't come bottled but are the home-cured ones. Because so many people living in Spain have their own olive crop, two recipes for their preparation are included here.

Method 1

This is similar to the process used for commercial olives. Pick through the olives and remove any bruised or blemished ones. Wash them thoroughly and place in an earthenware, glass or plastic jug. Add water to cover, measuring it as you fill the container.

In a separate container, dissolve 100 grams of soda-lye (sosa caustica, sold in droguerías) for every 5 litres of water which you have added to the olives. Be careful with the lye, as it can burn the hands. Add the solution to the jug of olives, mix well and leave for 24 hours. Then pour of the lye solution and wash the olives in running water. Cover them with clear water. The following day, wash and change the water again. Repeat this procedure for eight days.

Then prepare a strong brine - about 7 tablespoons of salt for every litre of water. Place the drained and washed olives in the brine, cover the vat and leave for two weeks. They are now ready to eat. They can be additionally flavoured as in the following recipe.

Method 2

Remove any bruised or blemished olives. Using a stone or mallet, crack the olives lightly, just to split open the fruit (wear old clothes, as you'll be spattered with olive juice). Wash them and place in an earthenware, glass or plastic jug. Cover completely with water. Change the water every few days for several weeks, or until the olives, when tasted, are no longer bitter. This will take about a month.

Then prepare a brine (see preceding recipe) and place the olives in it along with cloves of garlic, quartered lemons and sprigs of thyme and fennel. The lemons (oranges can also be used, giving an interesting flavour) keep the olives from darkening. Other herbs can be used, or the olives can be spiced with paprika or hot chili peppers. Cover the olives and let them sit for at least a week. They are then ready to eat. Replenish the brine as necessary and the olives should keep for several months. (If mould forms on top, skim it off. It will not hurt the olives).

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