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March 01, 2020
Wow! What a great first-time experience it was handpicking olives with family, friends, and a fantastic crew of local, hardworking harvest experts! With rain threatening and schedules to keep, we were committed to working as quickly as possible to get the job done. We assembled our twenty plus crew at sunrise, pulled out the tarps, rakes, batteries, and nets, and worked tirelessly over the next two days to get the job done.
The extra TLC that we gave the orchard over the last two years really paid off! All in all, our beautiful little orchard produced over 7 tons of olives, the highest yield ever! Everything seemed to fall into place for us; we’re especially grateful for all the assistance that we received from the other local olive producers in our area. We all worked as a team, supported each other, and managed to get our olives transported to the mill within the required 24 hour time frame. Another box checked, now on to the mill!
If you ever get a chance to visit an olive mill during the oil production season, I highly recommend it! Greg at 43 Ranch in San Ardo skillfully runs his state of the art mill with great expertise. The half-ton olive bins are carefully unloaded from the transport flatbed trailer to avoid fruit damage then poured into the intake chamber of the milling equipment to start the first phase of oil extraction. The olives are cleaned and separated from leaves and stems, then washed to remove excess dirt and other debris. The olives, pits and all, are then crushed and ground into a paste, then set to the malaxing machine where it is further processed and brought to a set temperature, which allows for the oil droplets to form and combine with others.
Once malaxing is complete, the paste flows into a two-phase centrifuge which allows first for the separation of oil from the wet paste, and finally the water from the oil. The oil that comes directly from the spigot is called Olio Nuovo or ‘new oil.’ It is the freshest possible oil, distinctively colored and flavored, slightly bitter and peppery, and highly sought after by many who are connoisseurs of fine extra virgin olive oil. Because this oil still contains fruit particles which can ferment over time, its shelf life is limited to about three months. For more extended oil stability and shelf life, the oil can be stored in plastic or stainless steel drums or ‘racked’ for 2 to 3 months to allow for the fruit particles to settle to the bottom. Finally, the oil can be filtered mechanically to take out the fruit particles and avoid the racking time.
Bottling was such a satisfying experience for our family. After caring for the trees all year long, planning, and completing the harvest and milling phase, we were ready to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Watching the fresh, brightly colored green oil flow from the stainless steel tank into the large steel fusti was such a moment joy, and it showed on all our faces!
We are now very excited and ready to share the oil with our friends, old and new. The oil is bottled to order to maximize freshness! We’re incredibly proud and grateful to be able to produce such a delicious and healthy product and can’t wait to share it with you all!
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