For each pound of olives you will need:
1 pound wood ash
1 1/2 ounces quick lime
8 teaspoons salt
3 cups water
Caution: Lime is caustic. Wear rubber gloves at all times while
handling it, and, whatever you do, don't get it in your eyes.
Lime is said to be quick when, upon being moistened with water, it
undergoes a chemical reaction, crackling, heating up, smoking, and
collapsing into a powder. At this point the lime is slaked, and no
longer dangerous. Continue to wear gloves, however, till you have
made the slurry described below.
It is in this powdered state that you should use it, mixing it with
the ash and the water to make a not too dense slurry. Immerse the
olives in it, covering them with a weighted top that will keep them
immersed in the slurry, and let them soak for twelve to fourteen
hours, in other words, until they have become quite soft. Touch
them frequently to check their progress. Some people check to see
if the pulp of the olive comes free from the pit, but this indicator
is sometimes wrong.
Remove the olives from the slurry, rinse them repeatedly, and soak
them in fresh water for four or five days, changing the water three
times a day, until the water comes clear and the olives lose their
bitter taste. Once the olives have reached this stage, set three
cups of water to heat on the fire with the salt and several slices
of bulb fennel. Boil the water for several minutes, let it cool,
pour it over the olives, and store the olives in a glass gar or
To slake the lime, immerse it for five or six seconds in water and
then set it on a sheet of paper. Put the paper in a plastic bowl,
which won't be damaged by the reaction.