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When you buy or eat olives it seems that the high quality ones always have the pit left in them. If you buy cheaper, not so good olives, they will most likely be pitted.

What is the reason behind this? Does the pit have an effect on the olive once it's in the brine or is it something else, perhaps tradition, that makes it seem "low quality" or "bad" to pit the olives before they are put in a jar?

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Probably for the same reason that corn tastes better on a cob or turkey on a huge drumstick at a renaissance fair. –  Sobachatina Sep 8 '11 at 13:56
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Just like the US dollar, olives suffer from dilution.

When an olive is picked and brined, the olive skin provides a barrier between the tasty fruit and the liquid medium.

When the fruit is pierced to remove the seed, the unprotected pulp of the fruit is in constant, direct contact with the brine liquid.

This direct contact allows the natural juices, which are protected by the olive skin in regular, unpitted, olives, to leach out into the brine liquid, reducing the flavor proportionally.

Pitted olives have their place, in stews, soups, salads etc. For full flavor though, always go for the unpitted olives.

Have worked in many olive producing areas in the world, and the best olives are always unpitted.

You could even do an experiment to prove or disprove this:

Buy some decent unpitted olives, fairly large. Buy a hand held cherry pitter and remove the pits of half the olives, put both the pitted and unpitted olives back in the brine and leave them on the counter for a week or so, then try them. There will be a difference.

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that might explain why I didn't like the canned pitted olives. I thought it's due to the long transportation because they come overseas –  Theta30 Sep 13 '11 at 7:00
    
Just found out that "Canned black olives may contain chemicals (usually ferrous sulfate) that turn them black artificially." From wikipedia. –  Frankie Sep 14 '11 at 10:28
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