How is Olive Oil made?

Watch NYC Life’s Potluck with Ali special on Piro.

 

Have you ever pondered the origins of your everyday household staples? Take olive oil, for instance. It's a staple in our daily lives, yet how often do we consider the intricate process behind its creation? Ali Rosen embarked on a journey to Tuscany with Piro Olive Oil to unveil the secrets of olive oil production.


First and foremost, it's crucial to understand that olive oil doesn't magically appear; it necessitates human intervention. The story begins with the robust olive trees, which are found all over the world and have a remarkable ability to thrive in various conditions. Some of these olive groves boast trees that have stood for centuries, reaching ages of 800 to 1000 years. These resilient trees require minimal care, enduring freezing temperatures and droughts while yielding smaller quantities of olives.

Olive oil shares many enigmatic qualities with wine. There are numerous olive varieties, each offering distinct flavor profiles, and the concept of terroir adds yet another layer of complexity. However, olives go a step further, absorbing the biodiversity of their environment, lending them notes of nearby flora. So when you detect hints of almond or artichoke in your olive oil, it's because the DNA of the olives has absorbed some of these neighboring fruit characteristics.

Tuscan olive oil, in particular, is highly prized due to the unique soil composition, rich in volcanic remnants, fostering optimal olive growth. Hence, it's common to see labels proclaiming "Made in Italy" or, more specifically, "Tuscany" on olive oil bottles. The tradition of Tuscan olives plays a significant role in the quality of the final product, but while olives may appear to be the linchpin, the milling process is equally, if not more, vital.

Unlike winemaking, milling olive oil is a surprisingly swift process. Mature olives can be harvested in the morning, milled in the afternoon, and immediately yield fresh olive oil. Observing this transformation is akin to monitoring an orchestra of variables that evolve throughout the day. Factors like the speed of the machines, time spent in each machine, and olive temperature are all meticulously adjusted at Piro.

The process begins with the olives being cleaned and then crushed in a Malaxer, where the paste is stirred. Subsequently, a separator removes excess materials, and a centrifuge extracts water from the oil. It's in this phase that quality distinctions become apparent. Some producers simply press a button, letting machines make critical decisions about the olives' needs. At Piro, it's a mesmerizing spectacle, with experts constantly fine-tuning the process visually, gauging when the olives are just right.

Unlike wine, freshness reigns supreme in olive oil production. The oil can be filtered and used on the same day it's made. Look for a harvest date when buying olive oil, aiming for oil produced within a year for the highest quality. This fascinating process has evolved over the centuries, resulting in ever-improving olive oil production techniques.

 

 

 

Ali Rosen a Emmy, IACP and James Beard Award nominated host of Potluck with Ali Rosen on NYC Life, a novelist and a cookbook author. 
Ali appeared numerous times on The Today Show and Dr Oz as well as on Home & Family, NPR's All Things Considered, Harry, Food Network, Inside Edition and more. She has been featured in Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey Magazine and Food & Wine and has contributed to The Washington Post, BonAppetit, New York Magazine, People, Epicurious, Refinery29, Manhattan Family Magazine and Fodors. Ali was named as one of Forbes Magazine's 30 Under 30 for Food & Drink. If she's not at home cooking or writing, you can usually find her at the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC.

 

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