Monday, November 14, 2011

Olive Oil

     The family who owns the house I live in has olive trees that grow on the hillside below our home.  Each year the olives are harvested in early November and taken to a community olive oil press where they are made into oil.  This year was the first time in four years that I was not able to help with the olive harvest.  This was not a good olive year.  There were only half as many olives this year as there were last, so the olive harvest went very quickly.  
     I suppose before moving to Italy I did not give olive oil much thought beyond, "YUMMY, I like it!"
However, since the moment I picked my very first olive, I have been very curious to know how those firm black fruits are transformed into the green, glorious oil.    This year the stars aligned, and I was given my very own, personal tour of the olive press where my Italian "family" brings their olives.   So in return, I bring you your very own virtual tour of Frantoio di Valnogaredo. 

Olives arrive in all different quantities, some by trucks, some in the backs of cars.  

Olives are taken from the smaller crates that are used during harvesting and consolidated into the large green containers you see below.

Every families olives are kept separate, so the oil that is made really is from the trees that each family has grown. Families provides large stainless steel containers for the oil to be collected in.  

First the olives are brought to this machine where all of the leaves and twigs are removed. 

 Once the leaves and twigs are removed the olives are brought inside and dumped into this contraption.  Here large granite wheels spin quickly around crushing the olives.

The crushed olives pour into here, where they are further mashed and pulverized.  

The olive mash is spread evenly over circular woven mats.  

A mechanical arm loads the mats onto a spindle.  Now the olives are ready to be taken to the press.  

At the press both oil and water are squeezed from the olives.  This "juice" is collected in a vat before it is sent to the centrifuge.  

In the centrifuge the oil spins to the top and is collected in large stainless steel vats. The remaining water is discarded.  

And PRESTO! You have olive oil!  The true liquid gold.  

 Unfortunately, there are somethings that cannot be shared virtually, like the amazing aroma of freshly pressed olives and both the smell and taste of the fresh oil.  There really is noting quite like it.

Here are a few final photographs from the neighborhood...

Cat bath intrupted by crazy camera wielding American.

Next door to the olive press.

The church in Valnogaredo, complete with olive tree. 


  1. love it! Olive oil is a pantry staple, has so much history. I love the process pics!!

  2. Thanks for all the cool pics. Looks awesome.

  3. Thank you for posting the process photos, Daisey. :D

  4. Oh, my! I can't imagine my life without olive oil ... dramatic, I know... but true. I have never, however, seen the process explained quite like this. Thanks!

  5. So this is why it taste so good! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Love, Mom

  6. How did you get to have such a close-up view? That's a treat! Do they have lots of German tourists? I could read the lower part of the sign!

  7. Sandi, it was really a very small place. The people I went with take there olives here so they were familiar with the place and the people who ran the place. I was a little perplexed by the German on the sign. North of here, sure, but this was just a little east of here. There was a school group that was just arriving to take a tour just as I was leaving. It really was a great experience.