I am a little reactionary by nature perhaps due to my background as a conservator. At Le Mura we have harvested our olive trees every year by hand stripping the olives off the branches, then carefully removing all the sticks and leaves before taking them to one of the very few traditional olives oil presses or Frantoi in our area. However this year our lovely neighbors decided to help us out and bring our olive oil production up to date.
Well, I may love tradition but a job that takes weeks was finished in days and the oil is perfect, so what did we change?
First, we used a handheld shaker to agitate the trees so that instead of climbing on ladders, Roberto made our little green and black jewels easily drop into the nets. We only had to cut a few branches that were too high and needed pruning. We were then able to gather them all up put them into crates We all went off to the Frantoio or olive press. These open up all over the area during the olive harvest so locals can bring their precious olives. The important thing is to have enough olives to make your own pressing, 200 kilos, otherwise, your olives gets mixed with someone else's, who might have sprayed their trees. If we are going to make our own oil we certainly want it to be organic and all from our own trees.
Roberto took us to the frantoio that he uses, which is a modern one, when I asked why he preferred this one he pointed out that the process was not so open to contamination, therefore, the yield is higher and shelf life longer. The oil, in the end, also contains more phenols, which are what make olive oil so good for you. I felt a little sad not to be off to the old mill but decided I should embrace the experience with enthusiasm and not be set in my ways.
The olives starting their journey
The olives are washed and the stalks and leaves removed
Then ground into a paste, pressed and the centrifuge is used to separate the waste from the oil
The first filtration
The oil in our area is very high quality because it has very low acidity and our cold press virgin olive oil certainly deserves its title as the gold of Lucca.