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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

At the Frantoio Part 1

After another only half day on Monday due to miserable weather,

we finally got a whole day's worth of olive picking in on Tuesday, the day before we were due at the frantoio, the olive mill.  Here are some views of my co-workers as seen from the top of a tree:

With all those rain interuptions we have only managed to pick about a quarter of the trees so far, however many were still quite green and might benefit from a couple of weeks longer on the trees.  Besides, we couldn't have fitted any more olives into the car.  As it was I let the girls drive to the frantoio, whilst I took the bike for the 15km journey.  I got there 15 minutes before them, not having taken the scenic route the ladies took...

Anyway they got there without me having to send out the search troops.  We unloaded the car onto the scales:

...and they weighed in at 184kg.  I already started salivating and calculating.  Last year our relatively small harvest (half of what we have picked this year so far) yielded 1 litre of oil for every 5kg of olives.  I didn't realise at the time that this was a particularly good yield and was hoping to double our oil quantity for this year on the first harvest alone.  I was wondering whether we brought enough containers.

Let me take you through the process at the frantoio.  Unfortunately they no longer have the old stone presses to grind your olives.  They are only left as reminders of more romatic times:

First the olives get separated from any leaves and stalks you may have been mixing in with them:

Next the olives are washed:

Then they end up in this container where they are crushed:

This is what it looks like from the inside:

Finally they are pumped into the press where the oil is separated from all the other components:

This is an overview of the control centre:

This whole process takes a little over an hour, during which time you wait in anticipation:

Finally the green liquid appears:

and you gather it in your containers:

Finally the result, but... big disappointment!  This year's resa or oil content is a mere 10 % as opposed to last year's nearly 20%.  This means out of every 10kg of olives you get only 1 litre of oil.  Hardly more than last year, even though we have gathered twice as many olives!

Apparently we are not the only ones with that problem.  All that recent rain has meant that, whilst the olives looked nice and big, even healthy (apparently olive flies don't like the rain much either, as we haven't noticed any signs of an attack at all), most of it is just water bloating up the fruit.

And the taste test?  Not as good as last year.  If you want to be kind you could call it 'delicate', but frankly it's rather on the thin and short side.  It has some fruity and grassy notes, but much less of the spicy notes we had last year.  And, so far at least, still not enough to last us through the year.

We are looking to get another appointment mid-December, but I can't help feeling quite disappointed.  The cost of the pressing and the petrol for going up to Popetto a few times and then to the frantoio works out at the same price as some cheap supermarket oil, and whilst the quality is better than that, it's not exactly exceptional.  The vagaries of nature...  At least we know WE made our own oil.

So any helpXer's out there wanting to help gather our harvest mid-December, as Cat will be leaving us tomorrow.  We've got quite used to having her around and she was definitely a help achieving what we did.  So thank you Cat, come back any time (in 3 weeks would be good... :) )


LindyLouMac said...

I think you have read my olive oil posts Heiko, so you will believe me when I say we completely understand your disappointment.

Heiko said...

Thanks LindyLou, I did think at the time that your yields were very low. It's obviously a country-wide problem.

chaiselongue said...

Even if it doesn't taste as good, it still must be wonderful to see your own oil coming out at the end of the process. Here they reckon to get a litre of oil from 7 or 8 kilos of olives, so you did really well last year! It's interesting to see that your frontoio has all the same kind of modern machinery as the mills here - it's looks so mechanised by that wonderful smell is just the same!

Heiko said...

Indeed CL, the smell is still the same, even if it is a bit noisy. Also the old boys turning up in their Apes are the same.

Kate said...

This is all so interesting Heiko. In South Australia olives are both cursed and treasured. Cursed because they have become a weed and fire hazard close to the city but treasured as they were planted by early settlers in the 1800's and early 1900's (ok,so not early compared to European history. But you took a long time to discover Australia and even longer for the Italians to arrive!!)There are so many old, wonderful, Italian varieties gone wild on the hillsides. But here in Tasmania it is not common to see all that many olives and people don't know one olive from the next. I have bought 4 different ones to plant but no idea what they are!

Anonymous said...

I thought your olives looked considerably bigger than ours, but had forgotten about how much rain you've had :(. The word going round our piazza was that early pressings this year were only yielding 10%, so we were pleasantly surprised to find we got almost 18% from a cold press. We've only really had one proper downpour in September since April though.

Good luck with your second pressing Heiko and may your oil yield rise as the olives mature.

Heiko said...

Kate, Tazzie olive oil sounds interesting... Good luck! Wouldn't it be a bit coold down there. Olives don't like severe frost.

Contadina, if this weather pattern persists maybe we need to move further south... I know there's global warming, but no one's warned us about global wetting! But of course it makes sense. Higher temperatures means more water evaporating from the seas and hence coming down again somewhere else as rain.

Mr. H. said...

I hope that your second picking yields much more and a higher quality oil. The good news is that after two rough years the next is sure to be fabulous...right?

Regardless, I have to agree with Chaiselongue. It must really be something to see your own olive oil pressed like that. There is no such thing where I live, it all comes from the grocery store and is never of good quality. Stay dry.:)

Heiko said...

Mr.H, you are right. It's a good feeling to already have sufficient oil to see us at least through the winter and well into early summer. And it is 100% organic with no crap added and we know where it comes from. A small bottle is now on it's slow way over to your part of the world in Cat's suitcase. Not sure about staying dry though..

Jan said...

I hadn't realised that the rain would only plump the fruit up but not increase the oil yeild. Makes perfect sense though.

Anonymous said...

We're farther to the north than you, above Rapallo, and didn't have any production at all this year (pruning); we usually figure about 7 kg to make a liter, so you did exceptionally well last year. It's a pity the oil isn't as good this year and that there was so much water content - but your own oil is always better than something you buy, no? Even if it might cost more!

Heiko said...

Ciao farfalle, welcome to my blog. You are right of course. Producing your own anything gives you a connection that you can't measure in monetary terms. If i had calcultaed our working time into the equation, this oil would be worth €20 a litre at least.

Veggie PAK said...

While I know nothing about growing olives, your info makes me wonder what could be so different between this year and last. Is it just the rainfall?

Good luck with the rest of the harvest!

Heiko said...

Veggie PAK, welcome to my blog. Olives, like many fruits, go through a 2 year cycle, producing more olives one year and fewer the next. This year our olives are on the up-cycle, but instead of the for us normal 4 summer months without rain, we've had almost continous rain throughout the growing season, causing a greater water content in the fruit and a lesser flavour intensity. Works the same with grapes for wine.