Our main project for December was to bring in our olive harvest. This was our first harvest and one of the difficulties that we had was sifting through the masses of advice that we were given, by our neighbours, the customers that our son Ben deals with at the Carmona store and the internet. We were trying to fathom the best time for picking, should we pick up the fallen olives, how the process at the press worked because it was important to us that we had our own organic olive oil and not a mix, which may have been chemically treated.
Everyone that we spoke to had different views on the timing and so in the end we decided to just get picking.
In hindsight we had a slightly romantic view of olive picking – you know the sort of thing – a nice sunny day, the olives falling gently into the nets, popping them into their crates and a leisurely lunch and perhaps a glass of wine before gaily loading the car with our bounty and off to the press.
The reality was somewhat different. It was cold and windy for a start. The olives do not fall off the branches after a gentle tap. The olives cling tenaciously to the branches and they need a good old whack before releasing their grip and even then about fifty percent still refuse to budge and need to be handpicked. The hand picking bit is okay when the olives are hanging obligingly on the ends of the branches, but most of them like to cluster in the centre of the trees surrounded by extremely scratchy twigs which protect the olives like a lioness protects her cubs.
After losing a few pints of blood each we decided that gloves would be a really good idea and Rosemary was despatched to the local ferreteria for supplies. Things got a little easier then and soon the olives were piling nicely into the crates, which when full were carried down to the house.
By the second day the living room was pretty well full of crates and we started weighing them to calculate our total. This was done by tying a piece of rope around the crate and lifting it with a hanging scale from the local Chinese shop, not particularly scientific but enough to give us a rough figure.
In order to have your olives pressed separately you have to have a minimum of 500 kilos, and we calculated that we had around 550 – so it was off to the press.
We had no real clue what the procedure was at the press and so we basically turned up with both cars packed to the roof with crates . We were directed to speak to the man in office who then sent us to speak to the man who operated the press. We explained that we would like our own pressing and that we had around 550 kilos. ‘Okay’, he said ‘tip your olives in that bin and then come back at 5 o’clock’. ‘Fantastic’, said we and did as we were asked.
We spoke to a couple of people who were bringing olives in and they said that the press was not very busy this year due to the poor olive harvest and that normally we would have had to make an appointment for our own pressing a good few days in advance, rather than just turning up as we had done.
We returned to the press at 5pm and watched our precious olives being tipped into the weighing machine. We watched the digital readout going up and it suddenly stopped at 450kilos. Our hearts sank – we needed to see that magical figure of 500. Suddenly the numbers started moving again and didn’t stop until they reached – 505 kilos. We were so relieved.
We were then asked how we would like to pay for the pressing – either in cash or in oil. The costs work out as 10 cents per. kilo if we paid in cash or 45 litres of oil for every 1000 kilos of olives. We opted to pay in cash.
It was then time to sit in the waiting room until our olives were pressed and we could start filling our bottles. There were 2 people ahead of us who were having their own pressing and so it was about 2 hours later that we were given the nod that our oil was on the way.
It was a great feeling as we turned the tap and our oil came pouring out into the awaiting bottle. We had no idea how much oil would be produced by our 505 kilos, as this really depends on the different olives – some produce more oil than others. The final result was 105 litres of wonderful, organic olive oil, which is apparently a very good ratio of olives to oil. We were over the moon. Suddenly all the hard work seemed very worthwhile and so to the final test – the taste.
We returned home at around 10pm and Rosemary was ready with a fresh baguette for dipping. So, how did it taste –absolutely delicious.
Our Olive Oil is on sale at our market stall every Saturday at Los Llanos market, and the AV Gardening Club on the first Friday of every month in Arboleas.