28 November 2009

Il Frantoio ("The Olive Press")

A little more than a week ago, I told you about La Raccolta ("the harvest") of the olives. It doesn't stop there.

Following the harvest, within usually about three days, the olives go to the press. The olive mills operate round the clock this time of year; so it can be difficult to get an appointment to press your olives.

The process is fascinating.  The olives are dumped from the back of the truck onto a scale that's in the ground and weighed.  The leaves and small branches we didn't separate during the harvest are now separated through the machine and then washed. Next, they are crushed and ground, which forms a brown paste.  The paste is kneaded and heated at a low temperature (think extra virgin, cold pressed) to enable the release of the oils. The air in the mill is thick from the overwhelming aroma of pressed olives. Once the oil is extracted, it goes through a centrifuge, separating the oil and water. From one tube goes the pulp of the olive, the waste of the olive, which is called sansa. The look of the sansa is not appealing!  And out of a spout, pours the foamy olio nuovo ("new oil") in varying shades of green and gold, the fruit of our labor. It is customary to immediately eat bruschetta made with the fresh-pressed oil. (There are several other steps before the extraction that I don't know how to explain -- sorry! -- but this website does.)

I told you firsthand about the intensive manual labor involved. And now I will tell you that for all that hard work the yield is only about 10.5%. From our 118 trees, we yielded ~40 liters of fresh olive oil. Now you understand why your bottle of oil can be so costly.

I enjoy every drop of high quality, good-tasting olive oil more than ever before.

-- Josslyn 'Giosalina'
near Certaldo, Italy

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