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james 11-12-2006 01:24 PM

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:

redbricknick 11-12-2006 01:40 PM

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.

james 11-12-2006 01:50 PM

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.

CanuckJim 11-12-2006 06:02 PM


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.


maver 11-12-2006 08:12 PM

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.

jengineer 11-14-2006 01:47 PM

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"

redbricknick 11-14-2006 04:03 PM

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.

jengineer 11-15-2006 07:24 AM

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.

redbricknick 11-16-2006 04:12 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Hey Jengineer. Is this the kind of wine press you are talking about?

jengineer 11-17-2006 07:38 AM

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

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