>
 

Bookmark and Share

Making Olive Oil

Olive oil has a long history in Liguria, and it’s a good bet that the locals were making olive oil on this very spot several hundred years before the Roman era began. There are dozens of frantoios around here, and people come in by the thousands to get their oil pressed.

By Rick Gush, Urban Farm Contributing Editor

Friday, October 22, 2010

Antique olive press

Photo by Rick Gush

Moreno, our gracious and enthusiastic host, and the president of the oil cooperative show off the antique olive crusher. Moreno is responsible for the restoration on the antique wheel machinery and the public spokesman for the cooperative.

I’m writing an article about how to make your own olive oil for Urban Farm’s sister publication Hobby Farm Home. To take some photographs, my wife and I took a trip to a local olive press. We went to a modern oil press, called a frantoio, to talk to the folks at the facility. Attached is a small museum with a nicely restored antique oil press. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the huge stone slab olive squashers used before the wheel crusher was invented. 

Olive oil has a long history in Liguria, and it’s a good bet that the locals were making olive oil on this very spot several hundred years before the Roman era began. There are dozens of frantoios around here, and people come in by the thousands to get their oil pressed. 

The cooperative that runs this frantoio has 1,700 members who bring their harvested olives here to be processed into olive oil. Most of these members just use the olive oil for personal use, but around 20 percent derive a significant portion of their income from selling it.

Boy, are the people proud of their oil! They arrive with boxes and bags of olives and wait patiently for their turn in the processing order. The machinery has several mixing stages during which smaller loads cannot be fully processed, so the minimum amount a member can bring it at any one time is a quintale or about 225 pounds. Most people bring in 500 to 1,000 pounds of olives.  This frantoio, like most others, works on an appointment-only basis, and getting an appointment can be difficult in abundant years. 
 

Olive oil producers

Photo by Rick Gush

A proud couple wait as their plastic tank gradually fills up with oil.

I found it surprising that the entire olive, including pit, is ground up during the processing. The crushed pit residue is removed later, but it seems to add a chemical-catalytic effect that helps separate the best-flavored oils. Experiments using a pitting machine to allow pressing of just olive flesh have concluded that the oil tastes worse in the pit-less processing.

When the oil pours out of the final filtering machine, it’s magic. Not only is it a good-looking product, the sight of it pouring out of the spout and into the containers the members will take home is what the hullabaloo is all about.

The good news for my family back home in the states is that my wife acquired some really good oil and some kitchen utensils made with olive wood. The Christmas gift acquisition season has begun!

Read more of Digging Italy »

Give us your opinion on Making Olive Oil.
Submit Comment »
Very interesting
Annie, Houston, TX
Posted: 2/8/2013 7:48:53 AM
As Livermore is a Wine area we also have a great aount of olive trees and a few poeple in the area that teach how to press the olive for oil, one day I will take one of two of the classes.
Carl, Livermore, CA
Posted: 2/15/2012 11:00:00 AM
Hi Elizabeth,

Most growers who take their olives to a good pressing facility get around six or seven quarst of oil for every hundred pounds of olives. There's actually an impressive amount of oil in olives.
rick, Rapallo, YT
Posted: 11/20/2010 10:43:59 AM
That was great to learn something new
Kristin, upper sandusky, OH
Posted: 11/19/2010 9:39:10 PM

Related Articles

Advertiser Links

Top Products
d
Gold Standard

*Content generated by our loyal visitors, which includes comments and club postings, is free of constraints from our editors’ red pens, and therefore not governed by I-5 Publishing, LLC’s Gold Standard Quality Content, but instead allowed to follow the free form expression necessary for quick, inspired and spontaneous communication.