No announcement yet.

Olive Oil Production Photo Journal

This is a sticky topic.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Olive Oil Production Photo Journal

    It is olive harvest and olive oil production season in Tuscany. Our local community held their annual olive oil festival, and the local frantoio, one of the few remaining mechanical mills still in production, was open and working away. We toured the mill, and I have put together a photo journal showing the process, along with descriptions of how the mill works, and some advice we received from local growers, and the owners of the mill.

    The photography could be better, but I hope you can still feel the essence of the experience, and the product. This is similar to the journal we put together on Mozzarella di Bufala production earlier. They are both a lot of fun.

    The olive oil production photo journal is here:

    And, the Mozzarella photo journal is here:
    Pizza Ovens
    Outdoor Fireplaces

  • #2
    My mother told me that when she was growing up in Cyprus, the olive harvest was her favorite time of year. The whole village pitched in and got the olives off the trees and to the press. The huge brick oven (forni) in the middle of town would bake bread, and the village kids would take the fresh loaves, hot from the oven, run over to the olive oil press and let the fresh oil drizzle from the spout onto their bread. I've been working towards emulating that experience my whole life.


    • #3
      Exactly. It isn't just olive oil. It a part of the community. Everyone picks, owns, eats, presses, tastes, shares, cooks, talks, grows, trades, and on. We met another family at the school our kids attend, and the Mom was at the pick up covered with mud and her hands were black from picking, and she was having a great time.

      Nick, you can finish your oven; and bring family and friends together.
      Last edited by james; 11-12-2006, 02:52 PM.
      Pizza Ovens
      Outdoor Fireplaces


      • #4


        Just a brief comment. Thank you for taking the time to do this. It has been many years since I've been in Italy for the olive harvest, so you bring back fond memories, and, as usual, good information.

        By the way, your photographs are better than mine.

        "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


        • #5
          Excellent photojournal. The pictures of the female vendor with the fresh particulate olive oil reminds me of the oil gifted to us by my zio's family. They are in umbria, and like many in their town they pick olives from their property (really just a few trees) and bring to the community mill. They then take their share home to use for the year. They gave us a bottle when we visited last 10 years ago (in the spring) - we had never had anything like it. It was green but full of olive "silt". It was so fruity and vibrant. I've had excellent imported olive oil since but none stands up to that simple product.


          • #6
            When we visited distant relatives in Sicily one of the elders took us to their garage under the living quarters. The floor was dirt and the garage was empty except for a 50 gallon container of olive oil. Mom had asked her cousins earlier in the day where they got their olive oil and the reply was from a local producer. She thought she could buy a bottle and bring it home. They explained that they only bought oil once a year so mom was thinking yeah like maybe a couple of gallon containers would be sufficient. When she saw the monster in the garage she said "that must last you a few years" They both said almost simultaenously "oh no that just lasts us barely one year, we get it filledat harvest time"


            • #7

              My Mum has a great method for curing green olives. (She has many, but this is my favorite)

              Select as many olives as you are able, picking the plumpest of the green olives. Take them home and have your gorgeous model intern smash them between two rocks. One big rock and one little rock for the hammer. I guess it doesn't matter what you use. Mum uses rocks. Heck, use firebricks, what do I care?

              Smash them carefully, so you don't break the seed. They split pretty well, but keep them in one piece. You are essentially opening them.

              Soak them in water for ten or so days, changing the water daily. Twice daily if you are bored. Once the bitterness is leeched from them, immerse the olives in a sea salt brine. You know the salt brine is salty enough when it floats a fresh egg.

              your olives are now ready to eat. They keep well in the brine, but never seem to last very long around my house...

              O.K. You dress the olives as you are going to eat them. Grind a bunch of coriander seeds, fresh herbs a plenty... thinly shaved garlic... olive oil of course, lemon, salt pepper, you know the drill..

              Heavily dressed bowls of these provide a great dipping medium for fresh baked bread. I marinate and refrigerate mine the night before I'm going to serve them, then take them down to room temp a few hours before the guests arrive.

              It's still possible to get olives from trees this late in the season here in California, but check your local olive tree.


              • #8
                double duty

                When my dad was making wine in our basement in North California, he built his own house and specifically designed it with a 1/4 basement so he could make and store wine, one of the contraptions he had was a crusher and a grape press. It is a hand operated tool with a couple of gears. The working end looks like oversized gears that don't mesh too well but would break a finger if someone owed you vig. Dad made a hopper that he loaded up with bunches of grapes, stems and all the crushers would pop the grape skins and not mangle the stems. The catch for this was a large garbage pail that would be end up as the start of the first ferment. I bet this devise would work on olives too.

                Now the grape press was cool in its own as the pulp would some out as a perfect 12 inch by 6 inch shaped cake. One of my mom's cousins perturbed my dad one month and mom said don't worry he will get his due. For his birthday mom made him a grape cake. Homemade frosting on the cake. Mom somehow was able to cut this thing and convince her cousin to have a bite. I put this up there with mom's chocolate covered soap.


                • #9
                  Hey Jengineer. Is this the kind of wine press you are talking about?


                  • #10
                    close only not as portable. I don't have any pics as the press is 500 miles from me.

                    This picture is similar but it is not as ornate as ours and the handle is quite different. Ours is cast iron or forged like steering wheel, the metal is about 1.5 inches in diameter with thick studs along the outer circumference. To crank down on it we used a 2X4


                    • #11
                      Re: Olive Oil Production Photo Journal

                      I have been buying Lebanese olive oil from Adolphos here in Bellingham. There is a website for Lebanese olive oil as well. Lebanese Olive Oil Apparently this oil is made by the brother in law of the woman who owns this Mediterranean specialty store here in town. It is light and lovely stuff, it is, however, a bit pricey for frying, but the taste is so delicate, it is nice to use the heavier stuff for the bulk of cooking...
                      Renaissance Man
                      Wholly Man


                      • #12
                        Re: Olive Oil

                        As a counterpoint to your artisanal olive oil tale, there is an interesting article in this weeks' New Yorker about the widespread fraud in the olive oil business. It seems that there is so much cheap and fraudulent oil that honest small producers can't make a living at it.

                        Letter from Italy: Slippery Business: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker
                        My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2


                        • #13
                          Re: Olive Oil Production Photo Journal

                          OK, now I'm confused! I wonder what I've been using all these last few years. Would I know good olive oil if I had some? Locally there is a retail outlet that has the expensive, artisan olive oils from all over the world. Might have to resort to that.
                          "The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom."


                          • #14
                            Re: Olive Oil Production Photo Journal

                            The best olive oil I ever tasted was a bottle gifted to us by my family in Umbria (near Orvieto) when we visited 10 years ago - they gave us a bottle of their unfiltered oil from the local coop press. That's been my reference. Unfortunately, nothing commercial I have had since comes close.


                            • #15
                              Re: Olive Oil Production Photo Journal

                              Hey guys,
                              The timing on this thread is perfect. The FB Store now carries extra virgin olive oil from a single farm located just south of Florence, and David, El Puaco and Maver have all put their finger on exactly why our new olive oil is so cool.

                              The trees and a traditional stone frantoio are all located at the farm, and everything is done by hand. We found the frantoio at the olive oil festival in Bagno a Ripoli last winter and we are now stocking 1, 3 and 5 liter cans in California. This oil is wonderful -- it is unlike anything else you can find in the states.

                              Maver, this will be even better than the Orvietto oil you remember. As a single olive grove with an on-site frantoio, it is even better than the coop oil. We have always thought this producer made the best local oil, and it took a little time to get the inbound supply set up.

                              And now we are ready to go. If you order a can, give it a taste and let everyone know what you think. We are thinking of entering it in some competitions.

                              Here are the links to the info page and the store.


                              Pizza Ovens
                              Outdoor Fireplaces