After days of waiting for the sun to finally return and dry out the olives, we got the phone call from our friend Bruce saying it was a good day to pick olives. We are dilettante pickers, but it was a great reason to be outside and climb trees so off we went. Elaine and I met Bruce at his house and then we drove high up and beyond Preggio to some place where the Nature God surely lives. It was spectacular.
We spread the net around a lovely old tree that was literally dripping with olives. It took the three of us a little over an hour but we picked nearly 25 kg of olives just from this one tree. The picking technique is sort of like milking the tree, when the branches are this full, you run your hand down and simply let the olives fall into the net.
The next tree wasn’t as generous but still worth the climb and the effort. It gets dark early here, by 4:30 all the light is gone and you can’t tell an olive from a leaf so it was time to head home. The well prepared man that Bruce is, after we packed up the car, he opened a bottle of wine and a pack of chocolate cookies and we watched the last bit of a fluorescent pink sunset.
Today we took the olives to the mill as part of the ‘exchange program’. You give them olives, they give you oil. Now, how cool is that? We gave them about 25 kg of olives and we took home a 3kg can of oil. If you want to press exclusively your own olives, it’s a 300kg minimum. It’s your choice to stand around and wait for your olives to be pressed or your crates get stacked up with your name on them waiting for a turn in the press.
Should you want a visual on why everyone buys extra virgin olive oil, take a look at the photo of the olive waste. After the first cold extra virgin press, the remaining olive flesh and pits are literally dumped outside the mill. Another olive oil company will come along and do a second, heat process to extract a lower grade of oil. It looks very manure like and actually sounds rather manure like as it plops out of that tube. Certainly makes you appreciate the good stuff.
Jeff and I showed up this morning with our paltry little crate and a green bag full of our precious olives and the mill was a beehive of activity. As usual in Italy, there is no apparent sense of organization but things do happen according to a plan. Bear in mind, this might not be the same plan that you have, but there is a cosmic plan in effect.
A very pregnant woman is in charge of the mill and it’s sort of like olive traffic control, people are arriving with trucks of olives, others are carting out shiny silver 25kg cans of finished oil, and lots of other people just stand around and chat. Eventually she takes our olives, weighs them, and after awhile we get our little can of oil and a stern talking to about not bringing our own can and we head home.
We kept aside about 8kgs of olives and these wound up in traditional salt brine, and hot pepper/garlic oil brine. In a couple of weeks we get to taste our brined olives, but tonight we taste our own oil.