Processing olive oil

If you have ever thought about harvesting olives for oil, it’s very easy.

First, read the information in this website: http://www.jumangaolives.com.au/services/olive-processing/

I have been getting my olives pressed at Jumanga for many years. The owners, Juta and Manfred and son Thomas are very friendly and helpful. A few years ago I used another oil press because Jumanga had closed for the season; it was more expensive and less friendly.

The minimum quantity Jumanga will press is 20kg which is easy to produce in an average-sized garden. Olive trees are tough and hardy; once they are established you don’t need to look after them much but of course they will produce more fruit if they are watered and fed and pruned appropriately.

Ten kg of olives produces between 1-2 litres of oil depending on the type of olive and how ripe they are. Green (unripe) olives are harder work to pick and produce a green-coloured, strongly flavoured, peppery oil high in antioxidants, but the yield tends to be low (around 10%). When the olives are half green and half purple the olives are much easier to pick and the yield is much higher (15-20%) but the flavour tends to be milder. If all the olives are purple and very ripe, they are very easy to pick, but the oil is rather bland and the yield decreases.

If you don’t have your own olive trees, look around your suburb for free olives on street trees, in parks etc. Once you start looking you will be surprised by how many olive trees go unharvested each year.

Once picked, olives need to be crushed for oil within a few days. Store in a cool dark place in ventilated crates or cardboard boxes with holes for aeration and do NOT refrigerate.

It is essential to have secured a booking for your olives to be pressed BEFORE you pick them because raw olives do not store well and olive oil presses get booked-up weeks in advance during the oil harvest season (usually mid-late March to late May/early June, depending on weather). Outside the olive harvest season, the presses close down.

You need to provide the processor with sufficient clean, dry containers for your oil. They prepare large bottles, e.g. 5 or 10 litres.

The oil is unfiltered. I don’t bother about filtering it because the sediment is just natural fruit waxes and safe to eat. If you want to filter your oil just let the sediment settle for a few weeks and decant the oil from the sediment.

Depending on your quantity of olives and the % yield, you will end up paying about $2-$3 per litre of cold-pressed, first-press, extra virgin olive oil. It’s healthy, delicious and lots of fun!

Donna Mak

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