Extra virgin Umbrian olive oil is considered one of the best oils in the world for quality, bouquet and taste.
“Olio nuovo” – new oil- is what we call the olive oil when is just pressed. In contrast with most wines, olive oil is at its best when fresh. Just like we do, most Umbrian olives are picked between the end of October and mid-November. Therefore “new oil” is anything produced and sold in the last part of the year. The new olive oil is fragrant and peppery. After 3-4 months it becomes smoother and slightly sweeter but still intense. A good extra virgin olive oil remains a delicious condiment for at least a year.
Most olive farms in Umbria are rather small, counting anything from 20 to a few hundred trees. People picks olives quickly and brings them to the mill when they have at least 3-400 kg (approx. 650-800 pounds). Mills are owned by cooperatives of farmers or by large farms.
Here below is the mill (frantoio) where we our olives were processed at the beginning of December.
Olives move from right to left in the series of machines above. Whole olives are first washed, then crushed into a pulp and subsequently kneaded to separate oil from water. The crushing machine cannot be opened during operation, so unfortunately I have no picture for it.
The resulting olive paste is subsequently centrifuged and filtered to obtain olive oil. The whole process is kept at relatively low temperature, around 20 C (68 F) to avoid oxidation and loss of flavor. The olive oil is transferred into stainless steel containers and the exhaust olive pulp (pumace) is transported outside.
For more details on classification of olive oils and their production please give a look at this excellent olive oil glossary.
At this stage, while we see the golden liquid filling our tanks, we feel very happy. After many days of hard work, we run home and enjoy the first fragrant slice of bruschetta of the new season.
The mill works 24 h a day for several weeks, these guys are lucky if they are ready for Christmas. Thank you guys!