How Olive Oil is Made, Using a Modern Press

Pressing Olive Oil: Strip the Olives from The Tree By Hand...

Pressing Olive Oil: Strip the Olives from The Tree By Hand…

Come November, if you take a drive out into the countryside in Tuscany or the other Central Italian regions, you’ll see people — in this case Adriano Martini, who has 150 trees in the town of Impruneta — climbing up into the olive trees to strip away the ripe olives with gloved hands.

The Olives Fall to Parachutes Tied Around the Trees

The Olives Fall to Parachutes Tied Around the Trees

It’s much easier to let the olives drop onto a parachute spread around the tree than it would be to put them directly into baskets.

There are Lots of Leaves and Sticks...

There are Lots of Leaves and Sticks…

Picking the olives also brings down quite a few leaves and twigs, as many as possible of which get discarded at this point.

Storing the Olives Prior To Taking them To The Press

Storing the Olives Prior To Taking them To The Press

Those who can take the olives straight to the press upon picking them. Since Adriano has another job — the trees are on his land — this isn’t feasible, and he spreads them out on rush mats, which allow air to circulate better than the boxes some other pickers use would.

Dropping the Olives into the Hopper

Dropping the Olives into the Hopper

There are two kinds of presses in Tuscany: Traditional, which grind the olives to a paste with upright millwheels, and modern, which crush the olives mechanically in a drum. Adriano has bagged his olives and taken them to a modern press, where he is now putting them in the hopper.

The Olives Go Up the Conveyor Belt...

The Olives Go Up the Conveyor Belt…

From the hopper the olives go up a small conveyor belt and drop through a spray of water, which washes them.

And Are Then Separated From Stones & Joss...

And Are Then Separated From Stones & Joss…

After washing, the olives roll along a vibrating strainer: Leaves, twigs, and stones fall through the bars while the clean olives go on to the press.

The Olive Paste is Mixed...

The Olive Paste is Mixed…

The crusher is a featureless horizontal drum; the olives enter, and emerge as a rich brown paste.

Olive Oil Fresh from the Press!

Olive Oil Fresh from the Press!

In the past people spread the paste over straw mats, stacked the mats, and pressed the stack to extract the oil; while the process is quite photogenic, it also exposes the oil to the air, and this results in oxidation and loss of quality. So most modern presses use centrifuges, which are again drums — vertical this time — that separate the olive oil from the paste. Less photogenic, but oxidation is greatly reduced.

Adriano, with a Dama of Freshly Pressed Olive Oil: Straight to the Consumer!

Adriano, with a Dama of Freshly Pressed Olive Oil: Straight to the Consumer!

The Finished Oil, Direct to the Consumer!
Adriano, with a Dama (5 liters) of freshly pressed Extravirgin Olive Oil

How Olive Oil is Pressed in a Traditional Press
Andar Per Olio, About Olive Oil, and Purchasing & Storing It

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Categories: Italian Ingredients, Tecniques

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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