Crack the raw olives with a hammer or rolling pin against a wooden chopping board and place in a large bowl or bucket. Soak the olives in water to cover for at least 1 week. Make sure you change the water everyday. This is to remove the bitterness of the olives. Once the olives have soaked for a week, strain the water and add clean fresh water to the bowl. Add the salt, garlic cloves, thyme, bay leaves and optional wild fennel. Mix well. Place all the solid ingredients (herbs and olives) into an airtight glass or ceramic jar. Pour in enough of the salted water to cover the olives. Close the jar and ensure it is airtight. Store in a cool dry place for at least 2 weeks before eating your first olive. Serve with drinks.
Recipe courtesy Janet Mendel, taken from her newest book about Spanish culture to be published in 2002 by HarperCollins