Our friends from Olive Oils from Spain have collaborated with Nicole from “How Does it Grow?” to create this great informational video that explains everything you need to know about the production of olive oil in its world capital… SPAIN! Watch the video below and find out exactly what it takes to make a great extra virgin olive oil. From harvesting to milling, uncover the story of Spain’s much coveted olive and how its oil has shaped human history.
Spain is the biggest olive oil producer worldwide
The province of Jaén in Andalusia has over 66 million olive trees and produces as much olive oil as the whole of Italy. In fact, Spain produces over half of all of the olive oil sold in the world. Olive oil production in the Mediterranean dates back thousands of years, and Andalusia was the olive basket of the Roman Empire. Not only was olive oil used for nutrition, it also served as oil for lamps, and was used as medicine, cosmetics, and perfume. Olive oil and the olive tree were sacred to the Romans, to the Greeks, and to the Egyptians. The olive tree is the oldest cultivated fruit tree known to mankind and can live for centuries. Jaén has trees over 800 years old, and in Lebanon it is said that you can find trees dating back 6,000 years. For more interesting facts please read this article on the history of olive oil.
Varieties of olive oil
There are roughly 700 known varieties of olives around the Mediterranean. Cornicabra, hojiblanca, picual, and manzanilla are among the most popular varieties of olives in Spain. Each variety produces its own unique flavor of oil, and within each variety there is a true diversity of flavors, varying from farm to farm and from one season to the next. Many factors play an important role in shaping the final flavor of olive oil including exposure to the sun, how much water the trees get, how the olive fruit is harvested, and more. Furthermore, different extraction methods produce different types of olive oil:
- Virgin Olive Oil (VOO) is not altered by any heat or chemicals during extraction.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the highest grade of virgin olive oil and to classify has to meet a set of physical and chemical standards.
- Olive Oil is refined with heat or chemicals and is sometimes blended with EVOO or VOO to add some of the original flavor or aroma of the olive fruit prior to extraction.
Making olive oil is like a race against time. Producers attempt to get the olive fruit from the field to the mill in under three hours and keep it in cool temperatures to preserve as much flavor as possible. Olives vary in color according to their stage of ripeness. All olives start out green and get darker as they ripen. The riper the olive fruit, the more olive juice can be extracted, but the milder the flavor. To produce Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the perfect time to harvest olives is when the olive tree has both olives of yellow-green color (less ripe) and darker olives (ripest). Harvesters work one tree at a time, using several types of machinery and tools to quite literally shake the olive fruit off the tree: motorized rakes, handheld shakers, and shaker vehicles. The olives fall from the tree and are collected into giant nets which the harvesters lay out across the ground to catch the falling fruits.
Making olive oil
The stems and debris are sifted from the fruit then the olives are crushed (not pressed) in the mill. The resulting olive paste is churned inside a specialized machine called a malaxer and is monitored frequently to make sure its temperature does not rise above 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The paste then goes through a centrifuge to separate the olive from the pomace – that’s the olive skin, flesh, water and pits. The result? A yellow-green stream of liquid gold coveted around the world for its flavor and health benefits.
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