The History of Making the Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil, EVOO
Archaeological evidence has found that olive oil was produced as early as 4000 BC. EVOO was also widely used in lamps, food and for medicinal purposes such as treating skin problems.
The people of Crete were the first in Europe to tame the olive tree. The people of the villages would get together to gather the olives and this tradition has been passed down from generation to generation to this day.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil was particularly important for diet and the gathering was a family tradition. Hence it formed part of the Greek culture. The use of olive oil in the Cretan diet can be dated back for centuries….
Extra Virgin Olive Oil was a symbol of the Greek cultural tradition and throughout all the regions of the Mediterranean. The Ancient Greek Olympic champions received a Laurel Wreath made from an olive branch. Even today, some families still extract EVOO the traditional way, however larger producers store their EVOO yield in huge stainless-steel vats.
The fruit and the longevity of the tree are paramount for best quality olives and good yields. Extra Virgin Olive Oil still forms the base of the Cretan diet.
Traditional Evoo Extraction
The olives are struck with a long stick and fall into a hessian cloth where they are collected one-by-one by hand.
Olive trees take about 5 years before they start fruiting and about 8 years to bear olives good enough for making the best olive oil. Different varieties are grown in different regions for their variation in size, shape, color, and flavor.
Blending different flavors after extraction introduces differences in lightness, denseness, color, and flavor. Individual varieties of olive trees produce these differences because it depends very much on the varying combinations of phenolic, polyphenols and other compounds.
Extracting Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Good quality extra virgin olive oil, EVOO needs to have these naturally occurring all-important aroma and flavour compounds to achieve balance and tone. It is these compounds that make Extra Virgin Olive Oil good for you. Different areas have differing amounts and produce different types of olive oil, influenced by their location and the surrounding plants.
Olive trees grow best in the Mediterranean climate. The olive trees are planted with 15 feet spacing to allow for an open-center canopy.
Self-pollinating trees and different varieties are planted side by side as this allows for a more fruitful harvest.
When the olives are ready for harvesting, different methods are used so as not to damage the olives. The traditional method is by hand or by long poles to shake the branches, or with a hand-held combing rake.
These methods allow the fruit to gently drop to the ground into a large hessian-type cloth, where it is then sorted for leaves, sticks or debris.
The best quality olives are placed into sacks or containers. On the same day of harvest, olives must be taken for extraction as the oil will be at its freshest. Then the olives are sorted and are ready to be crushed.
The olives are crushed in an olive press by a mill stone. In the past, granite wheels were used to press the olives. The stone rolls in circles on a slab of granite, to grind the olives into a paste.
The paste is then placed onto folded individual bags that are placed together to form a cylinder stack.
Each bag contains approximately 6 kg of paste. As the piston pushes up against the stack, the oil seeps slowly out whilst the residue remains inside the bags. In more modern times the paste has been spread onto synthetic fiber disks.
The final step of extraction is separating the oil from the water mixture. The oil is then transferred to a centrifuge that uses high speed to separate any traces of remaining water.
The oil is then tasted, sent for analysis to test, or create the different blends. It is blended for lightness, taste and to create unique aroma blends.
The extra virgin olive oil is stored in stainless steel and food-graded barrels or, for larger amounts, in larger stainless-steel vats.