Monday, December 9, 2013

A morning in the olive groves

We had been waiting for Saturday with some excitement. This morning we were going to harvest olives and make some olive oil. Last time we were scheduled to do this it was cancelled because of bad weather. Today the skies were brilliant blue, a perfect day. At the frantoia we boarded the Cap de Creus tourist train, really a tractor with two cars behind, and headed off through farmers' fields passing many olive groves. Finally, we arrived at 'our' olive grove.

The nets were already set. Here, this is an easy job, since the olives trees are on flat land. We were given rakes with plastic tops and told to get started. Since the trees were laden with olives, it was an easy task but perhaps not as easy as for the two professional pickers. They had steel forked rakes on long poles that were operated by battery packs. The olives showered down for them. Eventually, our net was quite full of olives. With some help we gathered the net until all the olives were at one end. The professionals took the net and dumped it in a hopper behind a tractor.

We took a different track back down more farm lanes passing more olive groves with lots of people out harvesting their crops. Back at the Empordalia frantoia the olives were dumped through a grate, and then suddenly they appeared on a belt that took them to a machine that removed branches. Next they were washed and the stones were removed before the olives were ground into a thick, goopy paste. It was mixed again and with gravity the oil was extracted.

While the latter part of this process was taking place we adjourned to a storage room filled with French oak barrels full of wine, and here we had a Spanish breakfast. Tables were overflowing with pan tomat, segol bread rubbed with tomato and a bit of oil, Serrano ham and other meats spicy and mild. There were lots of home made biscotti and other cookies. All this was washed down by the winery's red, white or rose wine. The food was much appreciated and there wasn't a scrap left by the time we moved on to see the huge, old stone grinders that were used in times gone by to extract the oil.

Now we moved to the bottling room, where everyone took their turn to fill a bottle with lovely, fresh, green oil. The bottle was moved to the capping machine and the process was complete. We were very happy to leave with a good sized bottle of delicious olive oil. What a lovely morning.

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