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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Our own olive oil

The first step in producing your own organic olive oil is harvesting your crop. Black and green olives are usually harvested from November onwards in Cyprus. This is traditionally completed by hand, or by use of a small hand rake, with nets or plastic sheets placed on the ground, from the trunk of the trees outermost branches, to catch the falling olives. A ladder is needed to reach the higher olives and sacks or containers needed for transporting your crop to the storage area and later to the olive press.

The olives should be stored, spread on old sheets in a thin layer, somewhere where there is a good air flow until all harvesting is completed and should be turned daily.  It is also beneficial to clean your olives to remove bits of branch, leaves and dirt. This can be done by pouring the olives in a bucket from shoulder height into a large container, on the ground, and allowing the wind to blow away the debris whilst the olives fall into the container.  We completed our first olive harvest on November 17th 2010 which took the two of us a combined total of twenty-one hours and we harvested from our four mature trees a total of 214kg. 

Once harvesting and cleaning is completed, olives should be taken for processing to your local olive pressing mill.  Our 214kg of olives produced 47 litres of olive oil. This worked out at 1 litre of olive oil for every 4.6kg of olives picked. The pressing and containers cost us around 43EUR or 1.55EUR per litre of organic olive oil.

Because olive oil is high in mono-unsaturated fat, it storage period is longer than most oils.  Olive oil should be stored away from heat in a dark but airy area.  The best containers for storing your olive oil are dark glass or stainless steel but if its only for a short period food standard plastic will suffice. Containers will need a tight cap to keep out the air.  Your olive oil can be stored, if containers remain unopened, for up to 3 years after which it will start to go rancid.

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