We started in January to bottle and ship our olive oil from last fall’s harvest. It’s a little earlier than usual. Sadly, we can’t guarantee when you’ll see it on the shelf at your favorite store, because each store has different inventory levels, etc. But keep checking! I can tell you, however, that I’m excited about the quality of the oil.
Our fruity and grassy Limited Reserve, available since November, is a great example of the high quality of our 2012 extra virgin olive oil. (There are still some bottles of Limited available.) We had good weather and growing conditions last season. In addition, I’ll tell you how we get the oil ready for bottling.
Mother Nature was good to our olives last year. Warm temperatures started early in the season, meaning the olives got a head start in the spring. As the season progressed, we didn’t have a lot of super hot days in the summer. So our trees didn’t get “stressed.”
We also began making oil from the olives gathered at our new ranch in Corning, in northern California. (The town, by the way, is dubbed “the Olive City.”) Our Corning ranch looks great. We applied the farming practices that we learned from our other ranches, and the oil is fabulous.
Prior to bottling our oil, my colleagues and I at the mill were busy getting the oil ready. One of our key tasks: removing the olive fruit particles and other solids from the oil so it can be bottled and shipped to stores and consumers. We do this with additional help from Mother Nature – in the form of gravity.
Here’s how. After we crush the olives, the resulting olive paste is sent to high-speed centrifuges where the oil is separated from the particles, solids and water.
The remaining fruit particles – similar to pulp in orange juice – can enhance the taste and flavor of the oil. That’s what helps make our Limited Reserve extra virgin olive oil taste so fantastic. We bottle that oil immediately, without letting it go through the natural settling process. But, over time, those same fruit particles eventually ferment. Consequently, our Limited Reserve is dated on the bottle to be used more quickly than our other oils.
Those other oils require a longer shelf life, so we remove the remaining particles and sediment. We pump the oil into large storage tanks housed inside a temperature-controlled room. Inside the tank, the oil is allowed to settle for a number of weeks. The particles are heavier than the oil and naturally drop to the bottom of the tanks. We then move all of the settled oil to a clean storage tank, while leaving the solids and sediment at the bottom of the original tank for removal. This process is called “racking.”
We’ll move the oil from tank to tank periodically. And, depending on the olives harvested in a particular season, the racking process can occur several times. Once the oil has been fully racked, the lower concentration of remaining fruit particles no longer has an adverse effect on the oil’s lifespan or quality.
Once bottled, our extra virgin olive oil has a two-year shelf life.
I’ll go into detail about the taste of our 2012 oils in my next blog post. So please stay tuned!