Chef Draghi's Cured Green Olives


5 lb. raw green olives
3 lb. coarse sea salt                                    
15 fresh bay leaves                                
4 tbsp. white peppercorns                              
½ cup mustard seeds                                     
½ cup fennel seeds                                        
10 lemons, sliced                                           
2 bottles white wine                                          
1 bunch each: thyme, rosemary, parsley, and mint
2 heads garlic, each split in half                                                   

Score a small “x” on the end of each olive with a paring knife, and soak the olives in plenty of cold water overnight. After at least 12 hours, drain the water. Repeat the process two more times.  

In a large (2½-gallon) plastic food container (with a snap-lid, for covering later), make a thin “nest” of herb sprigs, sliced lemons, and garlic. Place a layer of  olives, two to three olives deep, over this nest. Sprinkle the spices and sea salt liberally over the olives. Repeat this layering process of herbs, lemons, olives, salt and spices until all of the olives are layered and covered.

Pour the wine over the layered olives and seasonings, and add just enough water (if necessary) to cover the contents. Place some small plates on top of the olives to help keep them submerged, and secure the lid to the top of the container. Place the container in a cool space (like a basement) for six to eight months to cure.

The olives are ready to serve when they are still firm and meaty, but the flesh is soaked through to the pit and comes away from the center as a solid bite. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon, as well as soft, creamy cheeses and antipasti.

Note: These olives will be much firmer and stronger in taste than any store-bought varieties, which are soaked in lye, turning their flesh into soft pulp.