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Olive Oil

From Tree to Tin

We harvest our olives in November, traditionally 15 November is the official start of olive harvest here and that’s when the mills open for business.

We collect the olives by hand into nets that are spread around the base of the tree and then pour them into a shaker which separates the olives from the bits of leaf and twig that also fall into the nets.

To rule of thumb for extra virgin oil is to press the olives within three days of picking but we aim for 24 hours from when the first olive was plucked from a tree.

We have to pick 300kg of olives for each press at the mill and we have to do in a single day so that we can get it pressed within 24 hours. The quicker it goes from tree to press the lower the acidity level of the oil, lower than 0.8% puts it in the ‘extra virgin’ category.

There are fast industrial ways of harvesting olives but we prefer to go out there with our nets, hand shakers and rakes to bring them down. It’s fun and it doesn’t damage the trees either.

The olives we pick are all from our land, so the oil in your tin comes from trees that have experienced the same microclimate and growing conditions. We keep the oil from each press separate, that way the flavour is unique. It means that you could buy two tins from the same harvest but from different pressings and detect a flavour distinction.

We take our olives to a mill that uses the traditional cold pressing method. Some mills use heat to extract more oil but we prefer the old fashioned way. The amount of oil we get from each press varies according to that year’s weather and ranges between 30 and 50 litres. That’s about 500 olives to make one single tin of oil.

And finally, we don’t filter the oil which means at the bottom of every tin you’ll find some dark sediment – we think it tastes better that way.

It’s hard work but it’s worth it when you get your very own rich, green and spicy olive oil.

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Copyright © Claire Knapton-James 2008-2018

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