Harvesting olives

Our first 'real' olive harvest - 2006

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One down, 849 to go!
After 2 years of pruning our 850 olive trees, fertilizing them, weeding them, pruning them and removing rocks, we finally have had enough olives to produce our own olive oil!

It was pretty exciting (at least part of it was!). We picked olives for 2 weeks, until we had enough for a full press - 800 kilos of olives, or about 1800 pounds. For this pressing, we picked both olives direct from the tree - by using a mechanical shaker to shake the olives from the tree into nets held below the tree - and olives that had recently fallen on the ground (called "suelos"). Kenton and I worked almost entirely on our own, with help only a couple of days!

We had the choice of 2 pressing methods - one is a "modern" press that uses heat and centrifugal force to extract the maximum amount of oil (this is the method used to produce almost all the olive oil sold commercially, as the oil is produced fairly rapidly and cheaply). The other "cold press" method uses the traditional method of first crushing the olives into a mash, then loading the mash onto straw mats. Each mat holds about a bucket of mash, so you can see that the loading of the press takes a long time! Hydraulic pressure is then used to slowly press the mats together more and more (over a couple of hours), forcing the olive oil out of the mash and into a container. We chose the traditional method, as it is a "cold press" and unfiltered, that supposedly produces better quality oil.

Our olives produced about 400 litres of olive oil - fairly cloudy at first, as it is unfiltered. Over the course of a couple of weeks, the olive sediment will settle to the bottom of the bottle, leaving lovely golden, olive-scented oil. The oil is slightly cloudy, which is how it should be - if you see olive oil in the stores which is totally clear, it has been filtered, and likely heat-extracted, leaving less taste and quality to the oil.