Olive oil, an Andalusian delicatessen
The story of the olive produce around our cortijo rural in Iznájar
In a previous blog post, you were able to read all about the olive trees that surround our beautiful rural cortijo in Andalucía, and how they are harvested. Now it is time to find out what the harvest brings.
During the winter months, the hills all around are alive with the sound of machinery. Tonnes of olives are being harvested, some for the “verdeo” and most are for the liquid gold, extra virgin olive oil, omnipresent in our kitchen in Cortijo La Haza, of course.
Any olives harvested during the verdeo (verde means green) are used for eating and end up, one way or another, as “aceitunas de mesa” (table olives). Every family has a closely guarded recipe on how to macerate their olives. But almost invariably they are crushed, bruised or cut and kept in salted water to reduce the level of bitterness. Anyone who has ever eaten an olive straight off the tree knows very well it’s not the best taste in the world… After a period of up to 12 months, the olives are then mixed with thyme, garlic, lemon, etc. then kept in jars for consumption.
Once they are harvested, the ripe (black) olives are gathered quickly and taken down to the collection point (there is one on the junction of the A333 and CO9200) where they are cleaned of any debris, such as leaves, branches and stones. The black gold then gets transferred to a waiting lorry and sent straight to the pressing plant, where the oil is extracted and bottled. This oil is made up of every farmer’s olives mixed together, clearly.
In recent years, however, with the rise of all things biological, the new trend has been to take your own harvest to a specialised “almazara”, or olive mill, where you can have it pressed individually, a privilege that previously used to be restricted to people with many tonnes of produce. These days, the minimum requirement is 500 kgs. It is thus that Carmen and husband Miguel started pressing their olives in the local almazara, and provide a lovely, deep-flavoured oil, much appreciated by chef Patriek and the guests alike. Bernadette will often organise an impromptu “cata”, an olive oil tasting session, with many guests preferring Carmen and Miguel’s oil above the other, slightly more commercial, but always local varieties we stock.
Needless to say, modern techniques have meant faster processing, better return, and better quality products. What’s more, recycling has also been introduced, with the “huesos” (stones) and leftover pulp being used for biomass products, so nothing goes to waste. Dried stones are a source of heating, used like pellets. We would have liked to have used them for the new heating system at our rural cortijo (ex olive farm, of course) here in Iznájar, but the practical issues with drying and storing the stones caused problems we were unable to solve.
And the old, conical milling stones? Well, you can see them being integrated in many an artwork around the area. You’re bound to come across one during your visits.