Backyard Olive Oil: Part Two

| 4/8/2014 8:37:00 AM

Renee-Lucie BenoitIn most parts of olive country the olive trees are just about ready to bloom. This is the time to prepare for making your own olive oil if you decide you want to try this most rewarding process. It’s similar to sitting in the dead of winter reading seed catalogs. Eventually the weather will be right and you’ll be ready to go.

Making olive oil is for the patient person. If you’re a person who needs things to happen “now,” I would recommend having a picking party and then ship your olives to a public mill for processing. Check out this website: It’s a really good place to get an overview, and, if you do decide that you just can’t wrap your mind around all the things you need to do and the time it takes to do them, they have a list of public mills where you can have an expert with the right equipment press your olives. If you’re thinking "well I’ll just cut to the chase and buy my own press," remember that presses are not cheap. The most basic ones are generally in the neighborhood of $2,500 purchased new.

When making oil you generally use a mixture of the green and black or purple olives. You want at least 50 percent color when you start production. Check the color of your fruit. It should be about 1/3 solid green, 1/3 solid black or purple and 1/3 in between. That is to say, a mix of the two colors. You can harvest the olives by spreading a tarp and knocking the fruit off the tree, but the best method is to hand pick them. Handpicking ensures that the fruit is not bruised or broken. Bruised or broken fruit degrades faster and the oil will not taste as good. Any damage to the olives can trigger oxidation, which creates an "off" flavor. So invite all your friends and family for a barbecue and have a picking party! You’re going to have your own “olio nuovo.”



Before you embark upon this it will be good practice to familiarize yourself with olive oil pests such as the olive fruit fly. If your fruit is invested with fly maggots you can still press but them your oil will be “grubby” and to me this has too much of the “yuck” factor. There are establishments that can help you with controlling the fruit fly. Places like Ernie’s Pest Control in Orland, California, can be helpful. Again, online can put you in touch with the suppliers you need.

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