Thursday, November 22, 2012

Olive picking in Le Marche


We’ve just returned from a wonderful weekend with our friends Doug and Neal in the tiny village of Sant’angelo In Pontano at their teeny weenie rustico picking olives from their incy wincey teeny weenie olive grove of 20 trees!



Marino and I had wanted to do some olive picking this season, we thought it was time to put our idle hands to some work, so thankfully Doug and Neal came through with an offer to help pick their crop.

We left Lucca early Saturday morning for the 4 hour journey taking us through Tuscany and Umbria and into Le Marche. Unfortunately the weather forecast was not promising and it rained all weekend. This did not stop us as our date with the Frantoio (oil mill) was booked for Monday.

We were all novices at this, Marino and I could at least claim that we’d picked the lone tree in our front yard in Melbourne. Although somehow I’m not sure this counts. We tried pulling them off one at a time; we tried whacking the trees with a rake and collecting them in an old tarp laid out on the ground – any way we tried was tedious and time consuming.




MARINO, NEAL AND DOUG TEDIOUSLY HAND PICKING



DOUG AND NEAL’S RUSTICO

























However, after only a day and a half the picking was complete. Fabrizio (their neighbour) picked up our babies early Monday morning to get them to the mill for washing and sorting. We soon realized when we got there that our olives were the cleanest they’d seen, no one told us there was no need to remove every tiny branch, stalk and leaf! After this process we were weighed – 120kg of olives, more or less. Then the guessing game began; one estimate was 15L, someone else said 17L. I was really hoping for 20L but did think I was dreaming – to be honest we had no idea!


LOOK AT THOSE BABIES!!

Around lunchtime, Marino and Doug had to depart for Lucca as they both had classes later that afternoon. This left the real work to Neal and me. For the next 3 hours we sat in the frantoio and chatted with the locals (as best we could) and patiently awaited the birth of our oil.


OUR BABIES


THE OLIVE MUSHING MACHINE



THIS IS THE PASTE BEING PIPED ONTO THE MATS


THE PRESSING MACHINE


























LA SIGNORA LAYERING UP THE MATS


THE OIL IS ALREADY OOZING!

Finalmente! It arrived, thick and glossy. Liquid gold! Neal and I were too excited to watch; thankfully Fabrizo was still there to guide the oil into our cans. An exhausting and somewhat time consuming process – but worth every minute. At final weigh in we have 20L!



LIQUID GOLD!

























ISN’T SHE CUTE!
At this stage we’ve not tasted the oil. Fabrizio invited us to his house to taste the oil and have a little something to eat and drink – now we’re really excited.

Fabrizio is the real thing; he has 200 trees, a substantial vineyard and the cutest Italian mama who makes a fabulous crostata marmellata (jam tart). We know this because Fabrizio’s wife was not home, therefore there was no food to be had at his place so he took us off to his mama’s. Here we enjoyed the jam tart, homemade wine and grappa.

Two hours later; Neal with a pot plant of the local weed called ‘ruta’ and me with the bottle of grappa (which contains the weed) arrive home exhausted and we’ve still not tasted the oil!!






By Tuesday it’s time to head home, Neal and I collect the remaining olives, 2 trees that we’d left for pickling olives; packed up the truck and hit the road.

Finally that night Marino and I try the oil, just a little tasting with some bread. It’s buonissimo!!


MMM ….CROSTATA, VINO AND GRAPPA!


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