California-style olives are the most popular olives consumed in the United States. Both the black and green versions are produced from the same starting material: green olives (with a bit of cherry-red blush). For both types, the olives are lye-treated, as described above for Spanish olives, except that several applications are used. In the case of green olives, the lye is removed and the olives are washed in water, and then dilute brine is added. The olives are then canned (after a pitting step, if desired) and thermally processed as a low-acid canned food.
For black olives, the lye-treated olives are heavily aerated between the lye applications to promote darkening reactions. Aeration can be accomplished either manually, by stirring, or mechanically, by direct injection of air into the tanks. The latter method is preferred because it is faster and reduces opportunities for spoilage. Air, or more specifically, oxygen, promotes a chemical oxidation reaction in which phenolic compounds are polymerized to form first brown, then black pigments. During air exposure, the concentration of two phenols, hydroxytyrosol and caffeic acid in particular,
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