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An A to Z guide to choosing, storing, preparing, and cooking fresh produce and recipe ingredients.

  • How to Choose Olives
    An olive’s color depends on ripeness, not variety: Green olives are picked before they’re fully ripe and are denser and more sharply flavored than ripe black olives, which contain more oil. Olives sold in bulk (in large, open containers by the pound) are often more flavorful than jarred or canned. Common varieties are black kalamata (large, meaty, salty, almond shaped), green Spanish (slightly bitter, often stuffed with pimento), and the ubiquitous, rather bland black Mission olives.

  • How to Store Olives
    Unopened cans and jars keep at room temperature for up to 18 months (discard cans that are dented, bulging, or rusted); opened, they can be refrigerated for several weeks in their own liquid. Refrigerate bulk olives submerged in brine or olive oil for up to 2 weeks.

    How to Prepare Olives
    Pitting olives is generally easier with black ones than with green. Here’s how to go about it: Place the olive on a cutting board and press down on it with the side of a chef’s knife. (The blade should face away from you.) If the olive doesn’t split apart, apply a gentle rocking motion, rolling the olive back and forth once or twice on your cutting board until the olive breaks open and the pit is revealed. Then pull out the pit with your fingers.

  • How to Use Olives
    Eat olives out of hand as an appetizer, bake them in breads, or add them to salads or sauces for fish (add them at the last minute—they can get bitter if cooked too long).

    —Melinda Page

    Real Simple Olive Recipes:

    See all Olive recipes »

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