Spanish-style olives are harvested when the skin color is green or straw-yellow. They are then treated with a lye solution for four to twelve hours at 15°C to 20°C to de-bitterize the olives via hydrolysis of oleuropein. The lye concentration may range from 0.5% to 3.5%, depending on the size and type of olive. Once the lye has penetrated to just outside the pit (about two-thirds of the way from the skin to the center), the olives are washed in one to three rinse cycles of water to remove the lye.The pH of the olives after washing should be less than 8.0. Although there should be little residual lye remaining with the olives, a slight amount of bitterness may still be present, which is characteristic of these olives. Following the washing, the olives are moved to tanks or barrels and a brine of varying salt concentrations is added. For some olives, 10% to 15% salt brines are used (giving an actual concentration of 6% to 9%), whereas others start with lower salt brines (5% to 6%), and salt is added later to give comparable final concentrations. Glucose may be added to restore sugars lost during lye treatment and washing steps. The brined olives are subsequently held at 22°C to 26°C.
Although the endogenous microbial population is reduced by the lye and washing treatments, the olive production environment still contains a wide assortment of microorganisms. There is, in fact, an opportunity for growth of
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