Olive Oil: Answering Olive Your Pressing Questions

1 Feb

So as everyone knows, Greece is a prime spot for olive-related matters: Olive trees, olive oils, heck there’s even a town named after the Kalamata olive (kidding, the olive was named after the town). Olives are everywhere in this country and this post is dedicated to them.

To learn more about olives, Ben and I decided to tour an olive grove and factory near Kalmata (the town, not the olive) to learn everything we could about this little fruit/vegetable (let’s not get into the whole seed debate). Not everyone likes olives *cough Bel*, but everyone loves a story.  So my friends, in order to depict how olive oil is made, I present to you:

 

The Life of an Olive
A biography of Oliver Oil.

Before Oliver the olive was born, a lonely tree stood out in the sunshine waiting for the rain. It had been a year since its olives were harvested, as the olive pickers only came around once every two years. The tree wanted to grow some companions in the form of fruit, so it decided to send out its shallow roots at least 4 meters away from itself so that it could collect what little rain there was. It rained one single night that summer, but the tree was happy because that was all it needs to thrive and grow its olives.

And thrive it did!  The tree felt little olives speckle its branches, and the tree itself was growing too tall and felt so heavy. It couldn’t wait for the owners to come and give it its annual “haircut”– shaving off some of its overgrown limbs so that the humans could use the wood for spoons, plates, and other objects like cutting boards.

As the season went on, the tree enjoyed the company of Olive and his friends but the trees limbs were growing heavier and the tree knew that it was almost time for all of his fruits to be harvested.

And then it happened. The humans came to the olive grove with their baskets. Oliver and his friends were excited to see the world, but the tree was sad to say goodbye. There were some lazy workers in the field, but one of the good workers, who typically harvests five trees a day, had picked four trees already and was moving towards this particular tree with his basket in hand. And so, the harvester plucked the olives from our tree and put them in his basket. Oliver was the last olive plucked, and he was filled with excitement as he joined his friends in the basket. When the harvester was done, the tree felt at least 50 kilos lighter! Sometimes harvesters would take off 100 kilos of olives (20 kilos of olive oil), but either way, the tree enjoyed feeling light again. It said goodbye to its friends as the harvester carried them away. “Goodbye, friends! Olive you!” said the tree. Oliver would have waved goodbye if he had arms.

That same day, Oliver and his friends were taken to the factory. He had heard that Olives came from all over the country; sometimes when humans had their own trees but not their own factory, they could bring their olives in to any factory where they’d be pressed into olive oil for a percentage of the human’s yield. Regardless, Oliver was excited to mingle and be processed and transformed.

He soon found himself going through a shower machine with the other olives; they were washed off and separated from their leaves. They were then blown with air to get off all of the leftover dirt. Olive and his friends felt weightless! They were then weighed without their accessories so the pickers would get paid fairly, and only for the amount of olives that they had acquired and not for twigs and leaves in their bags.

The next step was a little scary for Oliver and his friends…they knew that beauty was pain, but they weren’t too sure about this grinder. But they braved themselves and faced their fears as they were transported by conveyer belt into the grinder along with their pits (they were glad not to part with these, because they knew that this was where their nutrients and strength came from).

Olive and his friends were then turned in to a (not edible) paste and were excited to get the massage that came next, which would help them settle down from the stress they they had faced going into the grinder. They went into the massaging machine for about 15-20 minutes, and then were squeezed into a centrifuge. Now that they were good and relaxed, it was time for Oliver and his friends to have some fun! So, like a ride at a carnival, they were spun quickly around in the centrifuge, and as they emerged, all of their gritty solid bits were sent downwards; they floated up to the top as oil, weightless and beautiful! Their transformation was complete, and they were put into canisters, which would be sold to the humans who would love and cherish them forever (or at least until they finished their dinner).

THE END

 

 

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Now that you know how olive oil is made (thanks, Oliver), here are some extra fun facts:

  • Kalamata olives don’t make oil. 
  • Annually, an average person in Greece consumes 69 kilos (20 liters) of olive oil. Yes, that’s right…  PER PERSON!  (By comparison,  France consumes less than two liters per person annually.  The US about 1.1 liter per person annually;  Holland about 200 ml per year, and China is super low at .01 ml per person per year.) 
  • Spain produces the most, about a million tons of olive oil per year; then Italy, with  .5 mil tons, and Greece at 300,000 tons (but it’s 1st in the production of extra virgin olive oil).
    • Different types of oil:
      • Extra virgin olive oil ✟✟ (SO PURE; has a low acidity: less than 1%.  It doesn’t use any chemicals, and it doesn’t have a smell)
      • Virgin olive oil ✟ (PURE; acidity less than 25%)
      • Olive oil  (This oil gets around; it’s a blend of olives and possibly of other oils)
      • Any other kinds of oil (not the kind of oil you take home to mother) 
  • If you want to add more extra virgin olive oil into your diet, you could just substitute olive oil instead of butter for cake or brownies 200g = 200g; same ratio.

 

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Literally a shot of olive oil.

 

On our private tour we did some olive oil tasting, and if there was ever any olive oil that was better than extra virgin olive oil, you could find it at this factory.  We learned to smell it first. Some people smell bananas (…okay, weirdos) or freshly cut grass (I smelled this). What you smell may vary by country, but since we were the only ones on the tour (I’m telling you, go in January), I wasn’t able to pinpoint which countries smell which scent.

After you smell it, you put the shot in your mouth and swish it around….Gotta be honest, this wasn’t the most pleasant shot I’ve ever taken, and I wouldn’t suggest it to be included on the drink menu at your next party.

While it’s in your mouth, you’re supposed to suck through your mouth (kind of like gurgling) to get the most out of the olive oil flavor. This is the most crucial part in tasting, apparently. My first swallow of olive oil was so spicy!! I started coughing– was this chili oil or olive oil?  I took a minute to recover but eventually I was ready to try another variety.  The experts cleanse their pallets between samples with an apple.  


And yes, there are olive oil experts who come and rate the olive oil and determine whether it’s spicy, bitter, fruity, ect.  Much like sommeliers, there are olive experts who rate the oil on a scale of 1-10 (10 being spicy).

In China, they like the olive oil to be a 1 on the spicy scale, whereas Italians, Californians, Greeks like it hot! The one we tasted (that I coughed on because of the spice factor) was rated a 7. 

Previously, I had thought you would be able to tell the quality of an olive oil just by looking at it, but WRONG! You can only tell by smell and taste, so at international tasting competitions (yes, those exist), they give contestants a blue colored glass so they can’t try and judge an olive oil by its color.

Another tip I gleaned is to store your olive oil in stainless steel containers, or glass containers so long as they are dark and light can’t get through them (light kills the healthy value of olive oil).

Now, I promise I’m not getting paid to promote this factory’s olive oil, but in case you wanted to buy some, 50 kilos of olive oil cost 250 eros (plus transport) in these huge bottles (reusable from one year to the next). That’s half the price in the states.

 

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3 massive barrels would only last a year in a Greek family of 4.

 

Everybody hates waste, especially when Oliver and his friends have given up so much to become your dinner condiment. The remnants of the process can be used for other things, which I thought was really resourceful! The gritty parts of the olive can be made into pomade oils and lubricants. It is then gifted BACK to this factory and used for heat! People can buy these pellets (if their home systems allow) and use them to heat their houses! Is Greece living in the future? Yes.

Another great way to avoid waste is by taking that old olive oil that has been sitting in the back of your pantry since 2002 (are you a hoarder?) and making soap and cosmetics with it! Oliver will thank you!
—————————–

 

As we all know, olive oil is commonly used as salad dressing, so now, I would like to interrupt this blog post to play

Who Wore It Best: Greek Salad Edition

 

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Beautiful mix of salad ingredients dressed in extravagant olive oil.

So of course, in the land of Greek salads (aka Greece), how could I rank a salads when I eat so many of them? After eating my first couple of Greek salads and noticing the difference, I decided to construct a checklist that defined what makes the best Greek salad. The qualifications include:

𝥷- Tastiness of feta
– Quality and amount of olive oil
-𝥷 Freshness of tomatoes (this wasn’t summer sI took into account that it was a bad season for tomatoes)
-𝥷 Number of olives (4 was most often the number)
-𝥷 Saltiness of the olives (can’t be too salty)
-𝥷 General appearance
– 𝥷Quality of the piece of bread inside of the salad
– 𝥷 Any additions (such as capers)
– Did they skin the cucumbers?

 

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This was the winner! It had all of the requirements PLUS the green peppers as an added bonus. And look at that piece of yummy rustic bread! Definitely red carpet worthy. And by “red carpet” I mean my tongue.

 

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Top contender because it came with a fun plate and a beautiful sunset in Kardamyli; unfortunately, the cucumbers were showing a little too much skin

 

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Look at those cucumbers rockin’ the salad without their birthday suits! Skinless cucumbers are my fav.

 

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Talk about ‘I knew you were trouble when you walked in!’ This twist on the classic dish sported some fried feta as a bold accessory.

 

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This salad’s entourage — the capers and pepperoncinis– are just as well dressed as the lettuce itself!

 

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Totally avant garde, darling, with this fried cheese shell; definitely one of the best-dressed.

 

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This bowl serving us the “salad next door” look. Classic.

 

I wrote this blog post to refer to it next time I buy olive oil, to remember how special the taste, flavor, and process is, and to pay tribute to the incredible salads I’ve eaten along the way.

Once and for oil,
‘mi

 

One Response to “Olive Oil: Answering Olive Your Pressing Questions”

  1. deekerson March 1, 2018 at 6:53 pm #

    Yearning for a Greek salad. May Oliver rest in piece.

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