Drizzle Oil and Vinegar

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Archive for February, 2014

Processing Olives For Olive Oil

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Here’s how to process olives for their oil…The fruits must be inspected for defects and sorted by how ripe they are. This is important because the ripeness of the fruit will determine how much acidity the oil has. Often debris (such as leaves and twigs) is often removed with blowers or done by hand. To prevent early fermentation and to condition the olives for oil extraction, the fruit must be milled within a few hours of being picked and no later than three days for optimum oil extraction.  Next, the olives are cleaned in a cold wash and allowed to dry.

The next step involves crushing the fruit in order to break up its tissues and aid in the easy release of the oil. Traditionally, the crushing was done with mechanical rollers. In modern times, the crushers also rub and cut the fruit while crushing it.  Although the modern method works faster, it tends to allow tiny metal pieces to get into the oil. Once the fruit has been crushed, it is then ground—including the pit—into a paste to allow the oil to freely flow.  The first cold press of the olive oil (which requires only a minimal amount of pressure) involves spreading the paste onto stacked mats that will be smashed in a vertical press.

Another, more modern cold press process involves using a centrifuge.  After the paste is made, the paste is placed into the centrifuge and spun at an incredibly fast speed to remove the pulp from the oil. The resulting oil from this method or the traditional method will be a red-tinted mix of oil and water. The old process manually separated the oil from the water, but the more modern process uses another centrifuge to separate them. It is determined that five kilos of olive oil produces a liter of oil when pressed.

At this stage, the resulting oil is still not properly filtered. The smoky oil is stored in a container until time to be filtered. There are two chief ways in which the oil can be filtered. The more traditional approach allows the sediment to settle at the bottom of the container as the temperature warms up in the springtime. The more modern approach actually involves filtering the oil. It is said the more traditional approach produces oil with a smoother taste. It doesn’t really matter which way is primarily done because the resulting oil is still considered to be “virgin” olive oil. When olive oil is considered “pure,” the oil undergoes a second press (and sometimes more than that) before being filtered.  In Europe, pure olive oil is simply known as olive oil, and the oil doesn’t get the name “extra virgin” unless it has an acidity of at least 0.21%. The acidity of olive oil can be no more than 1.5% acidity because the potential for the oil to become toxic tends to increase with the increase of the oil’s acidity. You can also hot press—hot water press—the olive oil paste and add solvents in it to make soap (or use it for other commercial purposes). The oily vegetable sediment from pressing the olives can also be recycled as fuel, fertilizer, and cattle food.

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