Umbria’s Olives to Olive Oil: a Mill Visit
Within forty-eight hours of picking, those olives should arrive at the mill: pressing must take place before the moisture of the fruit starts to dissipate. Pino had called the mill even before our olive-picking was finished, arranging delivery to the mill near Assisi within 24 hours of the conclusion of harvesting.
At the mill…
The olive mill opened this year in mid-October: the olive-milling period varies according to climate and the warmth this year pushed ahead harvest time (I remember olive-picking even in late November years ago…). Once the mill opens, the olive pressing goes on round the clock until all the olives in our area have been pressed. Each grove owner is present at the mill to watch the pressing of one’s olives (no one wants even a tiny espresso cup of olive oil not their own!). Our appointment is for 9 p.m., approximately, and Pino will be there with 2 huge steel canisters for our oil. But he could be there late into the night, depending on the mill traffic.
The olive mill yard was a hive of activity when we delivered our olives, with others bringing in their olives, too. Some crates of olives arrived in trucks and some in those putt-putt little Ape (literally, “bumble bee”) scooter trucks. Some olive-growers drove tractors hauling trailers full of olives.
While Pino parked our truck for the unloading of our crates, I headed into the mill. The richly pungent fragrance of just-pressed olive oil greeted me as I entered. Smiling Antonio was there with his earphones on (lots of clattering in the mill), guiding the olives down the chute. Nearby, a man used the mill’s big white plastic pitcher to pour his shimmering just-pressed olive oil – almost a rich forest green in color – from the mill’s large plastic tub into his own large plastic jugs.
The miller’s grandson, Giacomo, drove a fork lift with two huge crates – each one can hold about 250 kilos of olives – to our truck, lowering them along the side of the truck. And then Pino started the dumping of the olives from our red and green plastic crates into the mill’s pair of huge gray ones. After the crates came a few white cloth bags holding the last of our olives. Pino was pleased with the quantity and seemed to caress the olives as he combed them to take out a few of the olive leaves mixed in with the olives.
Giacomo then maneuvered the fork lift to slide under each crate, picking them up double-decker mode and driving them into the mill. His mother Orsola and sister, Margherita,were busy inside the mill – this is a family business (what in Italy ISN’T?) – overseeing the weighing of the olives, as Giacomo’s fork lift slid them onto the scale, and then recording the milling appointments for each grower.
Orsola wrote Pino’s surname on two pieces of masking tape – ALAGNA – and slapped them on to the crates, now parked in a corner. Our olives had been weighted in: 473 kilos. Our best year ever since we started harvesting our olives in 1975.
We’ve done the harvesting. The mill’s turn now. When we pick up our olive oil from the mill, we’ll still have one task: to toast that bruschetta for the first trial taste of our olio novello (“new olive oil”).
Read about the harvest of these olives
Read about a celebration of our “new” olive oil
Read more about celebrating the “new” olive oil
Read about a past harvest – and the importance of olive oil
Click here to read about olive oil celebrations in Umbria
Click here to read about the Mediterranean diet
Read about Spello’s celebration of olive oil
Read more on olive oil, “Umbria’s gold”
Read about Assisi’s festival celebrating olive oil