Modern olive processors use various machines to crush, mill and malaxate olives before isolating their oil from water and solids via filtration or racking systems.
Chemical and sensory characteristics of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) are heavily impacted by how olives are stored before their transformation into oil, with two different extraction equipment types having their effects evaluated on these characteristics.
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At each step in this process, olives are crushed using a machine into a paste before being pressed to extract their oil content before straining and bottling for sale to consumers.
China is making headlines as an experiment in successful olive cultivation and industrialization outside of Mediterranean regions, due to the plant’s ability to adapt well in various microclimates throughout China.
China’s olive industry has historically been concentrated in various key cultivation regions such as Gansu, Sichuan, Chongqing and Yunnan. These regions have played an instrumental role in alleviating poverty and developing local areas while contributing to higher national quality standards for olive oil production.
Making olive oil has remained virtually unchanged over the centuries: harvesting, crushing and isolating vegetable water from oil. Each step plays an integral part in shaping its taste and quality in the final product.
Ideal olives should be harvested on the greener side rather than too ripe for efficient oil extraction. This reduces moisture content and makes for easier, cleaner oil extraction. Olives picked too ripe produce sticky pastes which make oil extraction impossible – we often add food grade talcum powder to firm up these pastes so clean oil extraction can take place.
As soon as olives reach a mill they are weighed and assessed before being sorted and crushed (olive grinding) into paste form.
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UC Davis Olive Center is the first university-based olive research center in North America, providing workshops, webinars and field days as well as providing resources related to olive growing, processing and sensory evaluation. Their food chemistry research along with mechanical harvesting techniques and fly control has greatly assisted producers in improving both harvest quantity and oil quality.
Taste Panel and Seal Certification Program, launched by COOC, were the first of their kind in the USA. Furthermore, off-the-shelf oil samples collected are shared with consumers, industry leaders and state health agencies for analysis. Furthermore, COOC sponsors international research into olive tree management practices, production methodologies, table olive production rates and machinery performance. Its members adhere to IOC trade standards while constantly adapting their practices based on new scientific findings.
Small growers must transport their olives in bins and trucks to reach a mill. When arriving, they only have limited time to crush their olives before crushing time is up. Modern olive mills offer continuous systems capable of processing three tons per hour using granite crushers or metal grinders to crush olives before malaxers separate vegetable water from oil production.
Malaxation length can dramatically impact both sensory quality and antioxidant content in olive oils, and using food grade talcum powder during malaxation helps strengthen paste, makes extraction feasible and enhances quality in the end EVOO product.
Agronomic, soil and harvesting practices as well as annual weather conditions all play a part in shaping the flavor of extra virgin olive oil produced from one variety of olives; its notes range from fruity, spicy or tart depending on these factors.
Experienced olive farmers can produce about 10 tons of oil per acre at current prices – which makes olives much more profitable than almonds or walnuts; but it requires hard work.
Farmers who do not have working capital may be wary of selling their olives to GIEs; others, however, believe the oils produced meet international quality benchmarks and may sell directly.
Perry Rea is an Arizona olive grower who wears many hats at Queen Creek Olive Mill: farmer, owner, master blender, sommelier, irrigator and quality inspector among them. Rea is optimistic about the industry; consumers are becoming more knowledgeable of its benefits as an extra virgin olive oil source.