04 Oct

Lucero Olive Oil to expand in-house operations

By Geoff Johnson,

Lucero Olive Oil does just about everything in-house, right down to the label designs. By the end of October, the company will be able to add milling to that list.

Using the third Westfalia brand separator to be built in the United States, Lucero will be able to improve the quality of its olive oil in a number of ways. “The first thing is, it’s how fast you get the fruit in the mill,” owner Dewey Lucero said.

With a milling facility closer to the orchard itself the company will now be able to process its oil within hours after harvest instead of the traditional 12- to 24-hour period, Lucero said.

Instead of churning the olives horizontally, as is typically done, the new machine will churn olives vertically, reducing the oxidation of the olives. With less oxidation, more of the olive’s polyphenols are saved.

Olive oil made with olives oxidated too long tends to be “softer,” Lucero said. “It doesn’t have that rich flavor.”

More polyphenols also makes for oil with a better shelf life and is better for the consumer, he said.

Processing up to five tons of olives at a time, the machine will hold more than the company can produce daily.

Some of the excess space may be rented out to other olive companies, just as Lucero has used other company’s millers to process its oil in the past.

Since its inception three years ago, Lucero Olive Oil has won 16 gold medals, an accomplishment that owes some credit to Lucero’s family. “My family’s been farming for four generations,” he said.

Lucero’s great-grandparents, Stanley and Iola Russ, grew Picholine and Navodila olives and grandparents on both sides of the family took olives to the local processing plant.

Until Dewey came along, the olive operation was never more than several hundred pounds a year and products were sold mostly to friends and family.

“There’s a good, long family history in the area with olives,” Lucero said. “I love what I do.”

In another three years’ time, Lucero anticipates growing enough olives to fill up the machine and then some.

California’s Mediterranean climate makes it the main state for mass-produced olive oil, he said.

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