Last week, my family and I took a mini vacation. We went to Italy and stayed in a beautiful area near the town of Lucca, Italy.
The house had a huge property with grape vines and olive trees everywhere. They had horse stables with many horses inhabiting them, and two very friendly dogs who roamed around ate fallen persimmons off the ground. I think I could grow to like this place!
Now, when I said they had olive trees everywhere, I really meant everywhere! A total of 325 trees are growing on the property. Our family had a rare opportunity to help hand pick the olives off the trees. To do this, they laid big nets under the trees so that when we picked the olives we would not have to worry about where they fell, we just scooped them out of the nets. They did have a pneumatic branch shaker attached to a tractor to use on the high branches we could not reach. We did one tree at a time. We picked 6 trees one day.
The next day after we plucked the olives off the trees, and getting a few scrapes while we were at it, we brought the olives to a local olive press. This father and son owners of the press were the 3rd and 4th generation of their family to run the business since 1911. They said that originally the press was run by a water wheel and that they only had electricity since 1948.
There, the olives were dumped in huge crates ready to be washed and rid of those leaves mixed in the bunch. After they were washed, the olives were sent downstairs to press out the oil locked inside of them. Once the olives were crushed, they were sent to a centrifuge. The centrifuge separates the mash into the solids (seeds, skin, meat), water, and oil. First the solids are removed as they are heaviest, then the water. Finally, the olive oil, lightest of the three, flows out of a tap into a bucket.
We left with a bottle of fresh pressed olive oil to bring home. It was a cloudy green color. They called it liquid gold. They said to pour it over over fresh cooked pasta or potatoes. It is delicious! I would love to spend another week at that farm!