Obtaining olive oil La obtención de aceite de oliva



The culture of olive oil in Lower Aragón has not only been kept alive through time, by tradition, but it has also gained momentum in the last few years thanks to the important work from the Control Board of the Lower Aragón Denomination of Origin which is endorsing the quality and organoleptic properties of this product, a hallmark of this region. Just travelling through Lower Aragón is enough to become familiar with its landscape, dry areas covered in olive trees and now, more recently, trees can also be seen in irrigated fields. The olive oil that is made in Lower Aragón comes mostly from the variety of olives called empeltre. These come from a tree of medium vigor and dense canopy. The medium-sized leaves are short and green fruit tends to be elongated and slightly asymmetrical, if left to mature on the tree they ripen and turn black. 


Everything in the olive oil production process involves care. The collection of olives is carried out in the autumn; from the 20th of November approximately. It is then, in these days, when the olive fields see frantic activity in their harvesting. The last technical studies have demonstrated that, in Lower Aragón, olive oil is better obtained when the olive has a determined index of maturity: the skin of the olive is black and the flesh of the fruit is pinkish.


Olive tree

Example of an Empeltre olive tree in Lower Aragón, Spain.

To make a quality olive oil it is necessary to collect all the olives from the same tree. As a result, the best system is the traditional vareado or better yet the "umbrella" system which is a mechanic method which has been incorporated in more modern times. The fruit picked from the tree, fruit in perfect condition, should never be mixed with fruit found on the floor that has naturally fallen from the tree under its own weight.
 Once they arrive at the mill for pressing it is necessary to clean them, i.e. remove any leaves and small twigs. If they have been collected with a net and it has been a foggy day it is necessary to rinse them too.
Once they have been weighed, they are then placed in the 'torba' where they wait to be ground. From the 'torba', the that olives will then pass to the mill. This period of time cannot exceed twelve to eighteen hours because if they exceed this amount of time the olives will heat up, from being stacked so close together, in such a way that the olive skin tissue breaks and the olives are believed to mold and ferment.
The whole of the olive is milled including the pit. Thus it is passed through blenders for 50 to 60 minutes at 30ºC to make a paste. The limited time of this process is also necessary because the olive paste cannot get too hot. The purpose in none other than to prevent the evaporation of the flavours in the olive oil.

The next step is the separation of the oil and the marc water. This is achieved through the use of a horizontal centrifuge of which there are ones with two and three phases. The centrifuge with three phases also separates the dry pomace. Shortly afterwards, the oil is separated again from water and left to stand for a period of time of fifteen to twenty days more or less. This period of standing ensures that the water particles sink to the bottom. Thus the packaging process can begin.

“The best olive oil in a harvest is the first press, because it is more fruity and stays that way for longer." So says José Bonfill, manager of Valdealgorfa Cooperative, which has led for two consecutive years the award for the quality of olive oil Designation of Origin in Aragón. “The newer the olive oil, the more noticeable the fruity taste," he adds.


Oil press

Hydraulic press for olive oil production, courtesy of Anthony King, Oliflix.



The system of pressing the oil has been mechanized in recent years.
These modern ways have also come to Lower Aragón. The traditional system was without doubt more expensive and could not take as many olives as the new machines. But both processes, as much the traditional as the mechanic, work through pressure. In the traditional method it was done by means of a piston in the continuous system and now its done through centrifugation of the paste by pressure. In Lower Aragón there are still traditional presses.

The final product that is obtained through whichever system is of high quality. A quality that has been mantained over time, generation after generation of olive farmers from this area who have achieved this liquid gold.

 Source: www.aceitedeoliva.com




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