All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Oriibu no shionuki / desalination of olives

Finding olives with lower sodium content at stores is nice, but they still contain quite a bit of salt. Tom tends to end up eating more than he probably should, thinking each fruit is small ... one more is OK ... another is still OK ... maybe one more ...

Soaking olives in water with a tiny amount of salt can take care of desalination. 

According to my kitchen tests, when olives are soaked in cold water (50F/10C), their sodium content is reduced by approximately 30% after 1 hour, 40-50% after 2 hours, and 60+% after 3 hours.

If in a hurry, using warm water helps. When soaking in warm/hot water (160F/70C; slightly higher temperature than hot water from sink faucet), olives' sodium content is reduced by approximately 35-40% in 30 minutes, 45-50% in 1 hour, and 50+% in 2 hours. Desalination continues at a slower rate as the water temperature declines.

How far do olives desalinate? In my understanding, olives will release sodium until the salt (sodium) level of olives and water becomes the same. For example, when several olives together containing 240 mg sodium are soaked in 100 cc water + 0.2 g salt (79 mg sodium), olives theoretically continue to desalinate until their sodium content reaches 159.5 mg (and water + salt solution's sodium content level goes up to 159.5 mg).

Looking at this from a different viewpoint, it means that you can control how much to desalinate not only by how long to soak olives but also by adjusting how much salt to put in water.

We buy the lowest sodium content olives we can find, and desalinating them in water with a pinch of salt usually results in a satisfactory outcome of moderate saltiness and all flavor still intact.

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