Cracked olives are olives which have been slit or gently bruised before curing so that they absorb the curing materials faster. As a result, they are ready to eat much more quickly, but their flesh is still fully flavored. Many traditional olive curing techniques include cracking, which involves a two part process, first curing the olives and then transferring them to a storage medium. Any type of olive can be cracked, also, ranging from the large green olives of Sicily to the small black ones of France.
Labeling for cracked olives may call them split or slit olives, depending on the region they are produced in. Typically, the olives are slit either by hand or with a machine, and a very small slit is made which penetrates all the way to the pit. The olives may also be cracked through crushing, which requires a light hand since the producer does not want to split the olive wide open.
After cracking, the olives can be brined, salt cured, or dipped in olive oil. After the olives have reached a point which the producer is satisfied with, they are packaged. Marinated olives may take up to eight weeks to reach maturity, even after cracking, since the marinade can still penetrate slowly, and it is important to make sure that all of the olives are evenly cured so that consumers do not unexpectedly get a fiercely bitter olive. After curing, the olives are transferred to a light brine or an herbed oil for storage, or they may be packed dry.
Two classic cracked olives are Nafplion olives, cured in olive oil, and Provençal olives, cured in a brine with herbs de Provence, a popular French seasoning. These olives have a tendency to get salty if they are mishandled, since the crack which promotes quick curing can also let a large amount of salt or brine into the flesh of the olive. Kept under good conditions, cracked olives can last quite a long time, although they may also start to get salty if kept too long. If cracked olives have gotten too salty, they can be soaked in fresh water before use.
There are a wide range of uses for cracked olives. Many are cured and sold with pits intact, so caution should be used when eating them or preparing them for cooking. Many bars in the Mediterranean set out dishes of cracked olives as snacks, and they also accompany salads and similar dishes as a side plate. The olives can also be set out in a spread of small dishes for people browsing hors d'oeuvres, or kept around as a salty and flavorful snack food.