Trip Start Nov 27, 2009
146Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Valle di Mezzo
We've been olive picking, mostly, this week. An olive picker spreads a net around the bottom of the tree and then shoves a vibrating stick in amongst the branches to knock off the olives and empty a tree in under quarter of an hour. But not if there aren't electric gizmos. Alternatives include a stick to beat the tree or a special rake device to strip the olives from the branches. But these only work on well pruned trees, and we don't discuss pruning too frequently as it is a sore subject for Brent! We were told before that no one picks olives by hand anymore. Well no one except volunteers on Brent's farm! Ladders, tree climbing and gloved hands were our method for plucking juicy olives. Quite fun on a beautiful day and you can only pick dry olives lest mold becomes a problem!
After several days of scrambling in the limbs of low trees, we experienced the pressing dilemma... of oil presses. We'd read about the difficulty of finding a press as olive season is a busy time and we'd also heard about the different presses and the resulting variations in oil. Our first batch of a couple of hundred kilos went to a hot press - listen to the foodies grumbling of displeasure. Pulverised, warmed and loosened with water, the pulp is then centrifuged at 3200 rpm to separate the oil, the water and the slop. We tasted some of the oil recently pressed - it was soooo green you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a bottle of kids food colouring! The second pressing, Brent took us to the traditional cold mill. Traditional means granite stones over 1000 years old grinding the olives. The motor is modern, installed in 1951. The pulp, looking like humous, is squidged onto circular mats that are stacked up to about 5 foot high. On a giant press the oil is squashed out and it dribbles down the outside of the largest kebab-resembling-thing I've ever seen. The oil is then spun to clean it further. It takes a day or two to settle before we can sample it but it smelled like olive oil.
Ah and the goats are lovely as always. Many of these have been born on the farm and hand reared. They are affectionate and social as all happy goats should be! If we're lucky, we'll be stopping here on the way through for birthing season next February/March. A hectic time with many cute and cuddlies to look after! But for now we're heading towards Citta di Castello for some house renovations.