Thursday, October 25, 2012

From olives to oil

I've been protesting an oil pipeline for the past couple of days, but today I want to think about a more delicious kind of oil--the kind that comes from olive trees.  Just before we left Italy last week, we got to see the process of pressing oil from olives in Travazzo, a little town near Valle San Giovanne, where we had been staying.

Our friend Vincenza from Valle and her husband have this little facility that processes olives from the nearby villages.  It all happens under one roof and includes huge stone grinding wheels, presses, and centrifuges, plus some hand finishing.

The olives come in boxes like this one, trucked in from small groves.  They go into the big hopper and are ground up by these giant stone wheels.

Here's a closer view of the giant wheels.  They're about five feet across.
The resulting oily mush is then pressed between big filters that are large mats made of white poly rope.  The photo on the left shows the press.  And the one on the right shows the residue left behind after the oil and water are pressed out.  It's dry and crumbly and is used for compost I would think.

The oil and water are then put through a centrifuge which separates the water and the bitter tasting stuff from the oil.

This is the spout that the oil comes through with the filter at the bottom.  When we went there the centrifuge wasn't running, that's why you see only a trickle.  

And here's the first press of the olive oil. That green colour means it's extra extra virgin, and absolutely delicious and fruity.  And I can attest to that.  

The filters are made at the plant with a special machine that looks like this. These are the finished filters.  

Each one is hand finished by this smiling young woman. 

This whole process takes place in one relatively small building.  It's the old-fashioned way to produce oil.  The building also houses a a modern machine that does it all.  It looked like a great big metal box about the size of a large motor home. Vincenza says that both methods produce good oil.  But it was more fun to see the step-by-step process.

I wish we could have brought some of this oil home with us but we didn't dare put jars of it in our suitcase.  And last year when we tried to bring some in our carry-on it was confiscated at the Florence airport.


  1. Now that is the kind of oil to love.
    I am surprised they crush leaves, twigs and seeds to make the oil !
    Sorry you couldn't bring some home with you but at lest you where able to enjoy it when you where there.
    Did you think of sending some to you or was it too expensive ?

    The first olive photo is spectacular !

    cheers, parsnip

  2. Hi Parsnip, it may be that they pull out the twigs and leaves but the pits get crushed I think. Thanks for your supportive comments on my blog. I haven't been doing much commenting while we've been away but I am going to be better about following.
    Cheers to you too,

  3. Thanks for visiting me and here I am visiting you back! I'm just so glad that you blog hopped and found me. I love doing that too. You get to meet such lovely people!
    I was really interested in your post on oil!
    I'm off to become one of your followers so that I can find you again! Joan


I really appreciate your comments.