Italian Olive Oil - the organic, traditional, hand-picked way

Imagine, the sun glistening through the leaves, the sound of the olives dropping on the floor, the calm tranquility of an age-old ritual, repeated every autumn for millennia. I lived it. A few weeks ago, I became an olive oil producer.


OK, maybe that's a bit strong. I became someone who helps other people who are far more experienced in making olive oil. OK, full disclosure, I helped my father-in-law collect his olives and take them to the press to make olive oil. But kind of, in a way, on some (very low, discreet) level, I was an olive oil producer. I made olive oil.

The scene of the crime
'The early bird catches the olive' could be a saying around these parts. I arrived late, around 9ish, and a few trees had already been de-olived (I may have just made that term up). It was time to man up and meet the olive.

So how do you do it? Well, it's pretty simple. You find an olive tree with plenty of olives and place nets all around it on the ground. These nets are pretty big and have to cover as much ground as possible as the olives can fall quite a distance from the tree (they aren't apples after all). Then, with a (gloved) hand or a small stick, you start to remove the lower-hanging olives. All the olives are removed, although the blacker they are the better, as this means they contain more oil. Then, with a larger stick, you start beating the higher branches in a downward motion. This is where you have to be a little careful, as the olives start to rain down at this point. I managed to get at least three straight in one eye, almost one right after the other. You continue to do this until all the olives have fallen. Where there were higher branches, we took to the ladders with a saw. Apparently, when pruning an olive tree you are meant to remove many of the internal branches, so much so that a bird is able to fly straight through the middle of the tree, without touching a branch.

My brother-in-law making sure every last olive is collected

Anyway, back to the picking. Once you're finished with the tree, you round-up all the olives on the ground, removing any attached leaves, twigs etc., and collect them all in a sack. Then you choose your next victim. I mean tree.

What about the worker's camaraderie, you know, the songs, the banter? I tried to make a bit of light chit-chat, you know, of the 'soooo, did you see the game last night' variety. Roma had just lost the derby della capitale 3-2 to Lazio and thus this was a risky venture. Little response other than a few 'don't mention these things to me' kind of hand gestures, and we were back to silence. Mrs LazioExplorer though, is a dab hand at the chit-chat. The daughter of the local landowner came down to see us, so the wife promptly stopped and, well, you know, engaged in public relations. For about 2 hours. These things are important. The men, however, continued to whack seven shades of $hit out of the tree.

A morning's work

So we have the olives, now what? Well, turns out we aren't the only ones with the idea of making olive oil at this time of year. The frantoio, which I guess translates to olive press, makes all its money in these 2 months or so of olive oil production. It seems everyone with a patch of ground makes olive oil. Thankfully, my father-in-law is an old hand at all this, and (as he often is) was ahead of the curve. We had a reasonably-timed appointment at the frantoio and had to get there promptly in order to not miss our slot. My uncle wasn't quite as organized though and so had an appointment for 3am the following night.

At the frantoio, when it's our time, our olives are machinated into a pulp, finer and finer, with the olive oil dripping out through various filters until it comes out, with an overpowering spicy smell.
Ready for their final journey

The frantoio machines

Where the magic happens


Fresh, smelly-but-oh-so-lovely olive oil

So there you have it. Organic, hand-picked, locally produced, high quality olive oil. It tastes amazing. You can drink it. Fresh, it has a spicy pepperyness that is almost too much. It's liquid gold. We have too much of it, of course, my father-in-law gets carried away with these things. He wants to sell it, but we don't know where to start. So, if you want some pure olive oil, produced in the most organic, simple, and local way we know how, just let me know. My father-in-law would be thrilled, and it is the best around, even if I do say so myself ;)

8 comments:

  1. What a fantastic and funny post! You had me roaring with laughter at one point, which I needed to do today. (It's been a hectic week.) Oh, how I envy you your olive oil...I don't suppose your suocero delivers to Canada? Ah, too bad...

    Enjoy your liquid gold.

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    1. Ha ha! Yeah, Canada is a little far, although you're welcome to try some the next time you're in Lazio!

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  2. Great post Pete, I will share on my FB page so readers get a different perspective. :)

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  3. A very interesting process that is a pleasure to watch. Thanks for the interesting post.

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