Most people enjoy the delicious olive oil without wondering how it is made from the green olive. For all gourmets who have always wanted to know how the green extract is made:. Here you can learn all about olive oil production – the most popular oil in the world.
Production of olive oil: From antiquity to today
The olive and the tree on which it grows have been venerated since ancient times. The Semitic peoples cultivated the fruits of the tree as early as 3000 BC. They particularly liked to use the oil of the olive to anoint the body in religious ceremonies and to light their lamps. An ancient Hebrew law forbidding the destruction of olive trees is still followed there.
In the time of the Roman Empire, the olive was a mainstay of agriculture. They even used it to lubricate their cars. The Greeks traded virgin olive oil for wheat: the ornate clay vessels they used to transport the oil became part of civilisation’s flourishing art industry.
As a member of the evergreen family, the olive tree has a gnarled trunk and leaves with a silvery underside. Its strong root system is ideal for penetrating sand, limestone or heavy, poorly ventilated soils. The trees thrive best in regions with rainy winters and hot, dry summers. Although it can take up to eight years for a tree to bring in its first harvest, an individual tree can live for centuries.
Old manufacturing processes and the revival of commerce
Early oil producers pressed the olives by crushing them between huge cone-shaped stones as they slowly spun on a granite pedestal. Today, most oil mills use hydraulic presses that exert hundreds of tons of pressure to separate the oil from the olive paste. Italy and Spain are the main commercial producers of olives and olive oil (extra virgin olive oil). Greece is close behind for high-quality olive oil. However, California, Australia and South Africa are on their way to challenging industry leadership. Some wineries even plant olives to compensate for poor grape harvests.
Today, the emphasis on good nutrition and the fascination for the so-called Mediterranean diet are leading to a bustling olive oil trade and olive oil production. Olive oil is touted as a monounsaturated oil that is healthier for human consumption than corn and vegetable oil.
How is old-pressed olive oil produced?
High-quality extra virgin olive oil is made from 100% unripe olives of the highest quality. In late spring, small flowers appear on the olive trees. Wind pollination leads to the flowering of the olives and the maximum oil content is reached about five to six months later. For the best olive oil, the olives are harvested green and unripe from early to mid-October.
Since ancient times, workers have been tapping fruit from trees with long stems. The process has not changed significantly over the centuries. Modern poles are similar to rakes. Originally, nets were spread under the tree to catch the falling olives. Many olive oil producers now use plastic covers to cushion the fall and allow a cleaner and faster harvest. In the case of industrially grown olive oils, large agitators are often used to shake the olives off the tree. At Di Bennardo, the olive oil producers pick and sort the olives for our premium extra virgin olive oil by hand.
What does extra virgin olive oil mean?
The term ‘virgin extra’ refers to olive oil of the first quality class, which is produced 100% from olives, purely by mechanical pressing (without heating above 27 degrees Celsius). The acidity may not exceed 0.8% (with Di Bennado we are between 0.1% and 0.3%). This gentle process ensures that the extraction of olive oil is as pure as possible. All the healthy ingredients, vitamins, flavour and unsaturated fatty acids are fully contained.
A high-quality ‘extra virgin olive oil’ cannot be created from olives that fall from trees when they are overripe. quality class. The more ripe the olive is, the more acidity increases. If the acidity of 0.8% is exceeded, it is olive oil 2. Quality class. However, the oleic acid may be used for the second not exceed the acidity level of 2%. Then it is the third quality class (lampante oil) and may no longer be sold in the food trade. For consumption, it would have to be refined to get rid of the excess acidity and crude odour.
How many kilograms of olives do you need for a litre of olive oil?
For a litre of extra virgin olive oil, the highest quality, Di Bennardo uses 10 to 13 kg of olives.
Olive oil production: the process at a glance
Harvesting, picking and sorting the olives
After the unripe green olives have been harvested by hand, they are carefully examined to sort out unhealthy olives. The olives are then brought to the press as quickly as possible and processed and pressed within a maximum of 6 hours to create the freshest and cleanest product.
Washing and grinding of olives
The green olives are rinsed with cold water and then passed on a conveyor belt between rollers or continuous hammers. This machine, often referred to as an olive mill or oil mill, grinds the olives with stone. In the past, the kernels were not ground as they did not like the harsh aroma. Nowadays, however, it has become customary to grind the seeds together in order to obtain the desired tart flavour in the high-quality olive oil.
In ancient times, olives were crushed into a paste using a simple mortar and pestle. This principle was extended until the stone mortars were so large that pack animals were needed to operate them. Today, the ground olives are sent from the mill in mixed containers in which they are processed into an even paste using slow-turning blades.
Today’s cold pressing for oil extraction
Modern metal impact mills have become established in recent years. The olives are crushed with them before the olive pulp is transferred to the mixing containers. The supply of oxygen is reduced to a minimum. This is where the so-called malaxation begins, a mixing and kneading process in which important preliminary stages of the olive oil aromas are created. After malaxation, the olive paste passes into two- or three-phase decanters, which can be imagined as horizontal centrifuges. In a continuous process, the oil is separated from the amniotic fluid and solids. This avoids heat or even heat, which results in less quantity but more quality. If the olive mass, later the olive oil, remains below 27 degrees Celsius during processing, the end product may be described as ‘cold-pressed’ or ‘cold-extracted’. The addition of chemical additives is prohibited.
Separating the oil from the plant water
Originally, the oil-water mixture was stored in barrels during olive oil production until the oil rose to the surface and was skimmed off. Some fermentation was unavoidable and affected the taste and smell of the olive oil. Today, separation takes place quickly by pumping the mixture into a centrifuge. The centrifuge consists of a rotating drum and a screw, which rotate at high speed on the same axis. As the oil and the plant-based water have different densities, the centrifuge forces them apart and into separate containers.
Filtration of olive oil
In olive oil production, filtration is the last discipline that determines the quality before it is bottled. Depending on the quantity produced, the olive oil is filtered immediately after the decanter (which separates the solid phase from the liquid phase), or after a short interim storage in a stainless steel tank. Filtration separates the essential elements of the oil from the rest. Depending on the quality and operation, water, sugar, enzymes and fruit components are usually filtered using different filtration techniques. This process makes the oil clearer, purer and more durable. Cloudy and unfiltered olive oil can oxidise and ferment quickly. Filtered oil, on the other hand, keeps freshness longer. provided it is stored appropriately.
Storage and packaging
The oil is stored in underground barrels until it is ready for shipment. Then the oil is filled in cans or bottles. Dark UV-protected glasses or cans protect the olive oil from light. As a result, the quality lasts longer. In clear glass bottles, the oxidation process starts quite quickly and the olive oil becomes rancid.
In many cases, the olive oil traders buy the olives from the producer and bottle them themselves. With the increasing popularity of olive oil, the packaging used in olive oil production has become more diverse.
The olive oil industry is regulated by state food authorities. By regulation, olive oil is divided into three classes during production. The highest quality, extra virgin olive oil, is the oil created from the first pressing. The lowest level is refined or commercial oil, also called ‘lampante oil,’ which has been processed to remove acidity, colour and odour. Lampante oil is a highly acidic quality. Its name is derived from its use as lamp oil at that time. Sulphide olive oil is chemically extracted from olives using solvents and refined in many ways.
The popularity of olive oil in the 21st century has resulted in many bottlers combining different types of olive oil and illegally labelling them as virgin or pure olive oil. So it is not always guaranteed that you will get extra virgin olive oil in the supermarket if it is written on it. In any case, the situation is one that could be called the ‘caution of the buyer’. Di Bennardo organic extra virgin olive oil is guaranteed to be natural.
WHY IS DOP CERTIFICATION SO IMPORTANT?
The DOP label was introduced in the mid-19th century as a direct response to the growing popularity of Italian cuisine worldwide. The growing popularity and demand of Italian products, in fact, meant that many inferior imitations of Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar, stretched and distorted the market. The DOP seal is regulated by Italian and EU laws. It helps to protect the traditions and economy of a region and to distinguish and market its unique quality products.
WHAT IS DOP SEAL?
DOP, or Denominazione di Origine Protetta, is the Italian abbreviation for ‘Protected Designation of Origin’. It is the most stringent of the Italian GI certifications and is a legal guarantee that a product is produced, processed and packaged exclusively in a specific geographical area. Considering the traditional methods of this region to ensure optimal quality and authenticity. Our organic olive oil DOP Monti Iblei has this certificate. The seal is red-yellow and is located on the back of the bottle above the green organic certificate. Only a few of the highest-quality products from Italy are awarded this seal.
THE DOP SEAL GUARANTEES:RELIABILITY:The products must comply with strict production guidelines and quality tests. This ensures consistently high quality over the years and strengthens consumer confidence.
TRACEABILITY/TRANSPARENCY:The products come from a geographically defined area, are made with specific ingredients and are produced and packaged according to specific artisanal methods.
AUTHENTICITY:Products are produced according to local and historical traditions that are characteristic of a particular geographical location and preserve these.
What are geographical indications of origin?
Geographical Indications (GIs) are registered names that are used to identify products that originate in a particular territory and to protect the quality and reputation of that product and territory. Products registered as GIs are legally protected against counterfeiting in the EU and in non-EU countries that have signed a protection agreement. The law aims to distinguish these genuine products from ‘copies’ on the market, which have the potential to mislead consumers and create unfair competition. Cheese, cured meat, wine, olive oil and fruit are amongst the protected foods.
PGI – Protected Geographical Indication
The protected geographical indication PGI (INDICAZIONE GEOGRAFICA PROTETTA) is a name that identifies a product. It comes from a specific place, area or country whose geographical origin is essentially attributable to a certain quality, reputation or other characteristics. The production of this product has taken place at at least one of its stages in the defined geographical area. Currently, 257 products are recognised as geographical indications, of which 139 are agricultural products and 118 are wines. This label is blue and yellow and can also be found on the back of our ‘Nocellara Organic IGP’ olive oil, ‘Biancolilla Organic IGP’ olive oil, above the green organic label.
The future of olive oil production
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find workers willing to take on the arduous task of picking olives. This is why the olive oil industry is using methods to mechanise the collection process.
Centrifugation methods, both for the pressing process and for separating the oil from the vegetable water, are becoming increasingly popular amongst the larger olive oil companies. Although centrifuging requires more energy and water, the method takes up less space in the factory and requires a shorter set-up time. Today the olive oil is stored in dark and cool cisterns and stainless steel tanks. However, some manufacturers also use ceramics or glass. Contact between the oil and oxygen is prevented by the introduction of nitrogen into the upper part of the tank, which prevents premature ageing. The amniotic fluid from the olives is collected and used as fertiliser for the olive trees, as it contains valuable minerals.
Only according to these principles can we produce a premium olive oil that contains 100% pure nature in the bottle. You can find our extra virgin olive oil in our online shop!
Organic olive oil from sustainable cultivation
Di Bennardo organic olive oil comes from the fertile volcanic soil of Sicily and is produced using an organic process. Natural and pure. All olives are harvested at the perfect time (beginning to mid-October), carefully picked by hand, washed and gently cold-pressed using state-of-the-art technology. The result is our unique organic olive oils ‘Nocellara Organic IGP Olive Oil,’ ‘Biancolilla Organic IGP Olive Oil,’ ‘Monti Iblei Organic DOP’ and ‘Novello Organic Olive Oil’.
Our mild Olive Oil Biancolilla Organic IGP enriches and complements subtle flavours such as white fish, mushrooms, pestos, carpaccio, seafood pasta as well as mild cheese and fruit.
Try each ingredient one with our organic Nocellara olive oil and our naturally cloudy Novello olive oil. Sprinkle fresh mozzarella, ricotta or our stronger olive oils with sheep’s cheese or Gorgonzola and be inspired and delighted by the combinations on the palate.