The Art of Olive Oil Production
It’s not surprising that the best Extra Virgin Olive Oils today are still made using time-honored traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Though a few steps have been replaced with modern-day practices to better control quality, artisanal growers know that there is only one way to produce the very finest. Olive Oil & Beyond is the only place who seeks out and imports the finest premium olive oil in Orange County, CA.
Olive Picking is an important operation that contributes significantly to the quality and cost of Extra virgin olive oil. The sensory (organoleptic) quality of virgin olive oil depends, among other variables, on the ripeness of olives and therefore the period of harvest. To obtain quality oil the olives should be healthy, picked from the tree (not from the ground) and taken without delay to the oil mill for processing. Unmistakably, picking the olives by hand and crushing within four hours is the golden standard. It is the most crucial step in guaranteeing the highest organoleptic qualities (aromas, flavor, color, chemical properties) from the olive to the bottle. Careful hand-picking prevents olives from quickly deteriorating caused by damage and bruising. Yet is not always possible to manually pick the olive from the tree because of cultivation techniques, the size and the shape of the plant and the orchard terrain. It is a small batch process revered by top producers, but unfortunately, it requires a considerable number of hired workers and it is an investment unattainable for most. Because this is a costly practice, most olive oils found in grocery stores today are produced by mass producers using Mechanical shaker or facilitating machine. Only growers with processing mills located on the estate can transport the freshly picked olives within just a few hours or less to prevent fermentation.
Once the olives are sorted, removed of debris and washed in cold water, the olives (including the pits) are crushed. Though stone and granite wheels are still used today as they were for thousands of years, stainless steel rollers or millstone crushers with their non-porous surface are more preferred, resulting in a thick smooth paste of oil, water and vegetable matter. “10-11 pounds of olives are needed to produce just 1 liter (4 cups) of olive oil.”
The olive paste obtained after crushing must be mixed to achieve the maximum oil yield. The mixing operation consists of a slow and continuous stirring of the olive paste to break up the oil/water emulsion. Among the few methods used for extracting the oil, the centrifuge method (known also as the Continuous System), is a more modern day process adopted by artisanal growers. The centrifuge spins the paste at a high velocity -since oil is lighter than water it naturally separates during this process though it will take an additional spin in another centrifuge to remove any remaining vegetable water. No chemicals or heat are applied, as these deplete the oil of good nutrients naturally found in olives. The resulting oil is left to settle for one month in inert, glass-coated tile or stainless steel containers, producing an unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, naturally high in nutrients, full of flavor and texture.