To this day and for over a decade, I travel to Italy every fall for the olive harvest to continue my education and studies of the olive and its art form, and to produce and fly back to North America with limited quantities of premium extra virgin olive oils. The bulk of the Obsessed with Olive Oil documentary was shot over a sleepless 2-week period during the olive harvest of 2017. This is an overview of the first chapter.
The easy way of harvesting olive oil is to wait for the olives to mature. Where they’ve gone from green to dark purple/black, they are fully ripe, detach easily from the branches, or even easier, you wait for them to fall to the ground. By then, fermentation would have accelerated and given birth to various olive oil defects, which resulted in a bad-tasting oil. Although sometimes hard to accept, making any olive oil can be quite simple; however, making a great extra virgin olive oil is complicated.
Influences on Olive Oil Quality
Each cultivar can produce a different oil, depending on where it was grown, the weather and soil conditions, when and how the tree was pruned, the presence of pests, and especially the ripeness of the olive, which has a significant effect on the main sensory (aromatic and flavour sensations) of olive oil.
Other considerations are how damaging the harvest was to the olives and how quickly they’re taken to the mill, along with the skill and experience of the miller, and the quality, upkeep and cleanliness of the equipment in the mill. Finally, there’s storage, transport, delivery and how long the oil takes to get to our table. After all, we live in North America, and olive oil is a fresh fruit juice, and it can take months to arrive here, at which point its quality and characteristics may have degraded.
The Quest for Excellence
All these significantly affect the aroma, flavour sensations, quality, and health benefits of olive oil. If you combine all these factors, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of possibilities for how olive oil can turn out. And if we play the probability game, then a lot of them will be bad, some of them pretty good, and a few of them truly excellent. And that’s the quest – producing and finding these excellent and exceptional extra virgin olive oils year after year.
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