10 Nov

New Hopland olive press in operation

By Ben Brown,
The Daily Journal

Although picking and processing may be winding down among the county’s grape growers, for the growing number of farmers who have dipped into the olive market, the season has only just begun.

At Olivino, at the foot of Duncan Peak in Hopland, where a new olive press has been installed in time for the harvest, olives grown locally and across the state are being processed into oil.

Olive picking begins in late October and will usually continue until December, said Yvonne Hall of Olivino.

On Thursday, Olivino was pressing olives from a grower in Healdsburg and olives grown by Real Goods founder John Schaeffer.

The Olivino press can process olives one of two ways. After being washed and destemmed, the olives, with pits, can be ground by three large granite wheels that turn on a granite base.

“This is how it has been done for centuries,” Hall said.

Next to the massive stone crusher is a machine the size of a large duffel-bag that does the same job as the giant stone wheels using small steel blades.

“This piece of equipment,” said Hall, indicating the mechanical crusher, “does the same thing that this piece of equipment does,” indicating the stone crusher.

As with processing methods for other fruits and vegetables, there is some controversy surrounding the difference between these two methods, Hall said.

“People strongly believe that with the stone crushed oil is much milder and fruity,” she said.

The machine crushed olive oil is said to have a stronger, bolder flavor.

Both machines are capable of processing roughly 770 pounds of olives at a time and can break them down to paste in about 20-minutes, Hall said.

Regardless of how it is crushed, the resulting olive paste is moved next into a machine called a malixer that uses large wheels to mix the paste and begin the process of separation.

“This is where the art of making olive oil is,” Hall said, leaning over to smell one of the mixtures.

When the mix is right, the paste is transferred to a horizontal centrifuge that will separate the oil and fruit-water from the paste.

Hall said the paste is transferred outside the building where it is loaded into trucks and taken off site to compost and eventually be used as fertilizer in Olivino’s olive groves.

The oil and fruit-water are then separated and the oil decanted into containers ranging from 5-gallon jugs to 500 gallon tanks.

The conversion from olives to oil is usually handled in tons, Hall said on average, a ton of olives will yield between 40 gallons and 50 gallons of olive oil, depending on variety, weather, and how recently the olives were picked.

The whole process can take up to two hours to complete.

“Sometimes you have to stop and adjust things,” Hall said.

The press can handle 20 tons of olives a day but Hall said they only expect to process 70 tons this year.

Hall said Olivino installed the press to process its own olives which grow on land nearby. The olives are trucked to the press right after picking to be processed.

“We wanted to be able to control the process from growing the fruit to making the oil,” she said.

In addition to making olive oil, Olivino also bottles on site, for both itself and other customers.

Olivino sells its product under the Terra Savia label. Hall said most of their oil is sold directly to customers through their Website and at the Ukiah Farmers Market.

[Source] Click here

Leave a Reply