Olive Crushing Time

Yes, after what seems to be a very long wait, we crushed our olives this weekend. It was actually 14 months since we last crushed as we had very little rain in the autumn of 2011  (as opposed to lots in the autumn of 2010) so we left the olives on the trees for as long as possible to let them fatten up.  Of course, you lose some, but we like that it acts as fertiliser for the soil in our little olive grove.  We´d rather have a few litres less oil but of a higher quality.

So, first you pick by knocking the olives to the ground into the waiting nets.  I was excused this backbreaking duty but Big Man asked me to tell you all that it´s hard, hard work on the arms and your back.  I do feel sorry for him, his poor muscles are still aching.

Load the olives into trailers and marvel at the variety of beautiful colours.

Now head off to a small local mill where they still stone crush (as opposed to using stainless steel crushers) and cold press (not heating to remove impurities) and don´t filter.  We want the pure stuff in our house, and our olives have only been “treated” with rainwater and chicken poo (ok, we won´t  dwell too much on that).

Tip them into the hopper.

Then up the ramp they travel and into the blower which removes leaves and twigs. They are weighed after this when “clean”.  We had 964kg this year, about 20kg more than last year which surprised us.

Now the fun bit – into the press where they are squashed between the enormous old stones. The smell at this point inside the mill is heady and intoxicating – freshly crushed olives coming at you from all directions.  It´s enough to make you sneeze.

Then into a tank for a little rest and finally out and into your waiting containers.  This year we got an amazing 235 litres of liquid gold which we split with the couple who help us pick them – 55 litres more than last year and an amazingly high ratio of oil to olives (a yield of about 24% when most people round here are currently getting 18 or 19%). So, it was worth the wait, and a good year for our olives.

Much of it will be consumed at home – we use it for everything in the kitchen.  Some will be given away, and some will be carried over for another year when the yield is lower.

Of course, the most important thing, what did it taste like? Amazing!  It´s still cloudy and green and tastes peppery and fresh with no acidity.  This is how I like it best.  Over the next few months the oil will gradually settle and turn a golden colour and take on a softer taste.  I´d love to send you all a little sample to dip some fresh crusty bread into, but if you´re ever round these parts, we´ll make sure to give you a taste.


103 thoughts on “Olive Crushing Time

      1. hehehe… no I think it was only about 11.30 when I posted my comment. I can’t even remember, it was past my bedtime but at around 8pm my mum had felt like drinking a cappuccino so I gladly had one with her! She slept peacefully but I couldn’t! ARGH!

        It took me all night until this morning when I woke up and was brushing my teeth, to realise what you meant by the chicken poop and olives… hahahaha… I’m soo slow sometimes! 😀 I think I would’ve almost choked laughing had I not suppressed the laugh! heeheee… :mrgreen:

  1. Tanya, I grow a little more jealous of your life with every post you write. Liters of freshly stone-pressed olive oil from ones own grove would be just barely this side of heaven. Thank you so much for the field trip! Loved seeing that process! Would love to have filled my nose with those heady olive smells too though….nothing quite like that smell on earth! I have a little olive tree on our patio in a pot. I was almost giddy when I saw that “she” had grown her first ten olives this year. They never plumped up and turned those beautiful olive colors though. Maybe I need a chicken. 😉

    1. Ah thank you Spree – when I write posts like this it does remind me of how far I´ve come in terms of the life I had just a few years ago and the life I live now. A dream come true, I am blessed! And as for your little patio tree, “she” should deliver more each year and soon you´ll have enough to pickle a jar…and they´ll taste like nothing you´ve tasted before (olive wise, that is)!

      1. Isn’t it a beautiful thing to see a person who’s living a wonderful life appreciating just how blessed they are? I love seeing and hearing about the life you live Tanya, so much, but even more than that I love to see YOU loving it! : )
        Our little olive tree is a Spanish variety, the arbequina. is that what you and BIg Man grow? They sure do make for an amazing olive oil!

      2. Taking things for granted is so sad, although I guess we´re all guilty of it sometimes 😦 I really try not to (and it´s actually not difficult to do) as I find such pleasure in what we have here! I know the variety your olive is, but we don´t have that – ours are Manzanilla (the big fat ones with a mellow buttery flavour) Verdiales (very popular round here for the fruity flavour they give the olive oil) and Picuales (the really little ones with a bit of a bite). Seems to make a good blend!

    1. Thank you – but I can´t take too much credit (apart from looking after the chickies so that they can do their “stuff”!) as Big Man and our pals did all the hard work 😉

  2. A fabulous post, I love my daily travels around the world, I never quite know what the latest news is going to be. And to have your own olives, your own oil. And to use the stone press. It’s all so wonderous! I think I should book a flight 🙂

  3. I’m very jealous too – but you’ve both worked hard for it (especially Big Man with the job of getting the olives off the trees) and I bet it tastes amazing 😉

  4. Really fascinating post! Went to the area of Lleida close to Barcelona for the olive harvest. They have the stone crushers on display in a museum. I didn’t know they still used stones! I am going to go right this second and have olive oil and bread.

  5. That looks like the sort of job you appreciate forever (or at least until the oil runs out!). You are so fortunate to be able to enjoy such fabulous fresh food.
    What happens to all the olive pulp?

    1. Definitely appreciate it! And I think you´ll like what happens to the pulp – it is sent off, dried out and turned into fuel “packs” which then come back to the mill to stoke their fires to generate some of the energy to make their machines work!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment and also for visiting. The taste is amazing and the bread is delivered to us daily by the local bakery courtesy of Bread Man and his little white van!

  6. Wow, absolutely fascinating! I’m joining the clan of envious – that oil looks divine and I’m sure it tastes even better than it looks 🙂

    1. I so wish I could share a little with all of you – it tastes so wonderful and unlike even the nicest and most expensive olive oil I had bought in London as it´s literally “fresh off the press”!

  7. I really enjoyed reading about this today. I can’t believe how huge your olive tree is. I once thought of planting one here, but I don’t think it would make it. We had one on our old property in British Columbia where there is a longer growing season. Please let Big Man know that we are duly impressed with his technique and strength. I wondered who had the difficult task of collecting the olives.. did they all fall into a huge net and then easily scooped up? I was very surprised by the rich color of the olives when pressed, this is beautiful in your photograph. Finally, I purchased some “greener” olive oil and returned it because of the different taste. The italian woman scoffed at me and said that it was supposed to be that color! lol… and now at least I know why!! xo Smidge

    1. Big Man thanks you for your concern! That olive tree is not the oldest, we have another which has a HUGE trunk, and is all craggy…the chickens like to lay eggs in it! Yes, the olives fall into the nets and then you roll them into a pile and scoop them up in a bucket. Some olive oil (particularly some of the Italian oil) is made from greener olives and stays green…more expensive as you get a much lower yield as the olives are less mature. It´s quite a strong taste and not really for using in large quantities. Ours is more all round – good for frying, cooking, eating “raw” on bread or mixing for dressings.

  8. I have been waiting for this post ever since you mentioned it sometime in late summer…and it’s as wonderful as I thought it would be! Congrats on your bumper crop, and thank you for sharing it with us, even if only virtually…
    How many trees are in your little grove, by the way?

  9. You’re killin’ me, Tanya! It’s becoming more and more clear why you chose to live up on the Mountain. Your olive oil is pure gold and how I would love to have a taste! Oh, well, I must admit that this was a great post, even if I cannot share in the bounty. Life can be so hard!

    1. It was a tough decision to make! Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I´m not dreaming…but then I go and clean out the henhouse and it´s “oh so real” 😉 So wish I could send you some….

  10. You are writing my dream 🙂 living my dream. I just moved to Andalucia less than two moths ago, living in a rented house for now – hoping and dreaming of buying an old finca in a couple of years building our own house and growing olives and oranges etc.

    1. Well, that´s exactly what we did and the dream came true! Stick with it, don´t rush and just enjoy each day as it comes. Let´s face it, life is pretty good here despite the economic situation, if you enjoy the simple things in life!

      1. Life is wonderfull here 🙂 Bought my first fruit tree yesterday – actually not my first, but my sons first fruit tree: His dream of Spain was 1. close enough to school so I can bike there, 2. a swimming pool, 3. a mandarin tree – 3 out of three is pretty good I think 😉 My husband want’s an olivetree and I … just want chillies, and tomatoes and strawberries and and and… plus room in my garden to enjoy it all in. Just taking it on day at a time for now.

  11. I repeat Tanya, I want your life!! You are the first woman I know (virtually know!) that really lives and breathes all this that I’ve read and heard about. I see the hard work involved but also how rewarding it is. And always, thanks for sharing!

  12. How wonderful! About 2 summers ago I was able to bring home some fresh olive oil from a friend’s place in Greece, Crete to be exact. It was so spicy and peppery, really wonderful flavor! It never had a chance to mellow because we used it all too quickly. Next time I bring some back I will make sure to use it more sparingly. I’ve never been to Spain….yet. I’m going to have to read through your blog for the rest of your story since I’ve only recently found you. It sounds like you have found your dream life.

    1. Greek olive oil is wonderful – although I´ve never seen it much outside of Greece (and who can blame them for wanting to hang on to it!). I say, if you get more, just enjoy it 🙂 Hope you enjoy the blog, and good to have you here!

  13. I love olive oil and thanks to a flatmate years ago, suffered through the initial stages of ‘olive tasting and appreciation’ sessions to come home with a love for the weird little fruit. Fortunately we grow a few of these in NZ and I have recently decided to see if I can get my hands on some during harvest time to marinate. Will have to check back through your blog for some recipes ……

    I would love to one day smell the smell of olives being crushed the old fashioned way. How wonderful to be able to use your own oil from your own olives every day. Perfect.

    1. Olives and olive oil do have a very distinctive taste and take some Getting used to. I always used to put butter on my bread, now it´s mainly olive oil! If you do manage to get some olives to marinate, I did a post last summer, so you´ll get some pointers from that. We are indeed lucky to have our own oil to use and enjoy – it´s a luxury not many have.

  14. Mmmmmmm!!! I love it when it’s cloudy and green and still spicy from having just been crushed! I practically inhale the olive oil those first few weeks (well, I soak all my foods in it), before it loses it’s deep green color and becomes more yellow-y.

    30 olive trees will give you that much oil?!?! THAT is amazing to me!! Does Big Man use one of those machines that shake the tree and get the olives to drop, or does he shake the tree himself? Ooohh, do you save some olives to pickle them?? (I LOOOOVE pickled olives!!).

    I would love to see the olive oil making process, this was a really cool post!!

    1. We had a bumper crop and the olives were big and fat! No machine here – just big sticks and elbow grease…hard, hard work. The oil is amazing right now, like you I could eat it with everything 😉

  15. Yes, it is the time for olive crushing… I traveled this weekend and I saw so many olive tree gardens that people were busy… This wonderful post dear Chica, I loved your photographs too. Thank you, have a nice week, with my love, nia

    1. What a great post – we live next to an olivar but I’ve never seen the actual process, past the picking part. Have you read Michael Jacobs’ account of trying to help pick the olives? Hilarious!

  16. Hello Chica,
    Thank you for your blog it always makes me feel happy.
    To me it’s amazing that olivetrees seems to grow on solid rock and still produce a good crop.
    I still have a lot of work to do on our recently bought new plot but next year I wan’t to start on pruning the 40 olive trees. They are abouth 60 years old and have not being pruned for the last 15 or 20 years (a lot of firewood will come from them)

    1. How lovely that you enjoy the blog – that makes ME happy! Gosh you have some hard work ahead of you but the good thing is that olive trees respond very quickly and you´ll also have, as you say, lots of lovely firewood 🙂

  17. Aaah, I’m so jealous! So, so jealous. That second photo, all those olives… I want it – I want all that delicious oil. Be a pal and send me some, will ya? 😀 (worth a try, lol)

  18. Oh how I love the taste of fresh olive oil. When I was a kid I would go with my dad to buy olive oil, he would buy the olives and then watch them transformed into oil,it was always amazing to me to watch the process..

      1. You’re right there… someday I hope to drive through Spain and France and pick up a car-load of quality olive oil and wine along the way!

  19. I missed this while I was away – it’s all so wonderful: your huge olive crop, the mill that still uses stone (here they are all modern now) and that delicious olive oil, enough to last for at least a year. I’m envious as we got 1.4 kilos from the bigger of our small trees last year, and hardly any this year! Last night when we got off the train at Beziers I could smell olives on the air, a marvellous sign that we were home.

  20. Thanks for showing us the process of pressing olives, and leaving our minds almost free of chicken poo… I have insomnia and I cannot be blamed for what I am writing! I love crusty bread and olive oil! I am so hungry!

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