|First, pick the olives. Get them to the mill as soon after picking as possible. That way, they maintain their freshness and fruitiness and produce the finest virgin oil.|
|A fork-lift loader moves my bin of olives to the loading chute. A week's worth of picking looks like nothing in that bin that holds 500 kilos!|
|Off they go, olives on the way to becoming oil.|
|Weight: 127 kilos ((280 pounds).|
Harvesting of olives seems to begin earlier every year. Two factors are at work here. One, yes, global warming. The fruit matures earlier. As soon as the first rains plump the olives (October), they are ready to pick, green and fresh. Also, early milling makes superior virgin oil.
Virgin olive oil is oil that has been extracted solely by mechanical means--crushing and pressing, without the use of high temperatures or chemical disolvents that alter the oil's composition. It is almost the only oil that can be consumed without further refining.
|The next step, the olives are crushed to release the oil. This is the old way for molturación, with grinding stones. It is no longer used at this mill. "Not efficient," said the owner.|
|Instead, olives go into this machine to be ground up by spinning steel wheels.|
|Straight from the centrifugal extractor, new oil pours out. Fresh-squeezed olive juice.|
|This oil is unfiltered. After settling a couple of weeks, it will clarify quite a lot.|
|Labels applied by hand.|
|No automated bottling here.|
|Ben and Leo load three 5-liter jugs of oil. I'm up to 35 liters now and still more olives to pick! Hopefully, we'll finish by next week.|
|The olive mill of the Ayala family is located in Campo de Mijas (Málaga).|