During our Sicily food tour, a highlight of the trip is spending time on a family-owned olive estate during the time of olive harvest and extraction of their excellent olive oil. We stroll with the owner in the orchards, gardens, and mill, and learn all about the process and about what goes in to making a great olive oil.
We learned that:
- Harvesting the olives at the right moment, while still green, means maximum flavor and lower yields – they much prefer quality to quantity
- Getting the olives to the mill right away is important, so they don’t sit and start to ferment
- Rinsing and sorting them thoroughly, to remove leaves and twigs, helps too
- Extracting the oil using the gentlest mechanism possible, to produce the least heat during the process, also maximizes quality and flavor
The care they take during the entire process means they create an intensely flavorful, fresh oil, with an incredible color too.
Here are two video snippets from one of our visits.
First, the olives being milled – the estate we visit mills its own olives. The olives are hand harvested in their orchards, and driven to the milling building. The olives are unloaded onto a conveyor belt, which takes them into the rinsing stage, they are hand-sorted, then dried, and then move into the extractor, which turns slowly and gently to separate the oil from the solids.
The second video is of the owner, Gabriella, talking a bit about the olives and the harvest process. The harvest goes on for weeks, and she and her father and other family members and workers, work pretty much around the clock.
That evening, we all sat down to a wonderful dinner in her villa of a variety of homemade local specialties, featuring their excellent oil of course, as well as produce from their gardens and fruit trees, local fresh and aged cheeses, and their house-marinated olives. Everything was delicious.