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Friday, 4 December 2009

At the Frantoio

Yesterday was the big day as we delivered our first olives to the frantoio. We thought the minimum weight processed was 100 kg and we were desperately trying to make up that weight in the last few days before our appointment at the frantoio, the olive mill. We did want to get them to the mill though, as the first ones picked were starting to deteriorate quite rapidly. However, the weather wasn't on our side, plus the weather forecast got it wrong by 12 hours. Sunday from about midday it was supposed to rain and clear up by Monday late morning. So we took Sunday off, to re-double our efforts for Monday to Wednesday. As it happened, Sunday stayed largely dry, with the rains and storms arriving Sunday night and lasting until Tuesday noon. So 2 1/2 days were lost. Also the trees on the lower terraces are in such a bad state, that they barely bear any fruit anyway, giving us a lot of work pruning them back with very little return in the way of olives (plenty of fire wood mind).

Cut a long story short, we only gathered 83kg of olives and it turned out that the minimum weight for one run is 150kg anyway. There's no way we would've been able to make that. You then have a choice of either just have your piddling quantity pressed and pay for the minimum quantity, or you can buy some of their olives to make up the quantity. We opted for the first option, to see what the oil would taste like (also we couldn't afford to buy their olives just now...). Our friend Karen came along to the frantoio and documented it all on photo, so here we go:

Delivering the olives:

and some more

and more

I was quite meticulous picking out only the healthiest looking olives. Just before we left home I picked out a few kilos which looked decidedly manky. But having now seen some olives which other growers brought along, ours looked positively good.

Our olives going into the washing machine:

Then into the press in individual batches. Unfortunately this is not one of the traditional stone mills, which would have all looked much more picturesque, but these are becoming rarer these days.

After an hours or so of waiting and inhaling the heady fumes of fresh olive oil, and chatting to other olive farmers...

...finally the first stream of bright green oil!

...and the first taste off my finger... mmh, not bad. Rich and fruity with a distinctly spicy finish. Definitely more Tuscan in style then Ligurian (the olive grove in Popetto are just on the Tuscan side of the border, whilst we are in Liguria, which is more famous for lighter more delicate styles of oil).

A word of advice from the frantoista: "not bad, but next time bring your olives in within 48 hours of picking them." Some of you may remember that I said fresh olives are no good to eat. However, if you want to turn them to oil, you should use them as fresh as possible and the oil is immediately consumable. I'd have brought them in sooner, I explained to the miller, but I had to cut overgrown trees to size at the same time, got interupted by bad wether AND an arm operation. In future years we hope to have both better yields as well as making harvesting them easier.

Squeezing the last drops out..

And finally the end product: about 16 litres of oil!

It won't last us for the whole coming year and the quality may not be outstanding, but it's way better than any commercial supermarket oils and it's made from our own blood, sweat and tears! (Well tears maybe an exageration, but blood and sweat definitely flowed!)


Ayak said...

Well done Heiko...blood, sweat and tears indeed. Nothing will taste quite so good as your very own olive oil.

How's the arm by the way?

Mr. H. said...

Like Ayak said, what could possibly be better than your own oil. How very exciting.

Thank you for sharing this whole process with us, it was very interesting...and your oil is so very dark.

chaiselongue said...

Oh, that's wonderful - your own olive oil. Worth the blood and sweat! It's interesting that being just over the border makes the olives taste Tuscan rather than Ligurian.

As you know, we're several decades away from having our own oil (maybe when we're in our eighties!), but friends who have olive trees say that here you're expected to take the olives to the mill on the same day as they're picked.

Heiko said...

the difference between Liguria and Tuscany is climatic. Whilst the olive grove is only 20 km away from us it's 20 km inland. Every time we go there we are surprised how different the weather is there, always a few degrees colder, often foggy, when it's sunny with us and a greater likelyhood of rain. Hence different olive varieties are grown to cope with the different climatic and soil conditions.

In an ideal world you do press the olives the same day, but that really only happens if you have your own mill. In reality, you have to make an appointment several days before with the framtoio, even if you don't know what the weather is like on that day. Also you don't necessarily get an evening appointment. So if you get them in within 48 hours you are doing well, but many of the old boys are bringing them in up to a month after harvest.

Martijn said...

Truely inspirational to see for an urban supermarket slave of the north like me. And the oil really looks like the busines. Congratulations!

Heiko said...

You are imprisoned in your office and a slave to your supermarket? Aren't these things against the law in the Netherlands?

Martijn said...

Quite the contrary. It's against the law to eat anything that is even remotely natural. You can not pick any mushroom here from the forrests. And the only olive oil you can get is probably peanut oil with a green food colour agent and some olive essence added.

I don't want to come off like a whiny complainer really (it's not a bad country to live in... ), but it is probably true that, food wise, Holland is the most mechanised country in the world. Anything NOT wrapped in plastic, or artificially coloured, etcetera, gets mighty suspicious looks from the consumers. So seeing someone producing his own oil is like a dream come true.

Heiko said...

I must admit, from the experience of my family holidays in Holland, that Dutch food is quite possibly the worst food in the world.

Stefaneener said...

Oh, what lovely lovely oil. Lucky you -- and next year, it will be so much better for both you and the trees!

I love the sticky note with your name on it. Not quite the antique method someone might imagine.

CJ said...

Oh! So interesting. I have never seen olive oil being made fresh. It was really interesting to it all. Great pictures too.

Anna said...

Congratulations Heiko! I like the picture where you hold the big bottle of olive oil, the expression in your face is of satisfaction...and that is when people make something by themselves! There isn't anything better!

Ruralrose said...

I too want to add my congratulations here, albeit a little late. Don't know how I missed this post, have been waiting to see the pressing and you did not disappoint. Read this with great fascination, thank you.