Saturday, October 9, 2010

Farm Workers

Happy Saturday!

Sometime shortly before Nicholas returned to Davis, he, Denise and I went out to lunch at the Public House in Old Town Temecula.  This is one of our new favorite places, if for no other reason than their excellent beer selection.

After lunch we wandered the streets a little bit and stopped in at the Temecula Olive Oil Company.  While Nick and I were sampling the  oils and vinegars at the tasting bar, Denise was wandering the store, finding a flyer for an olive picking event at the company's olive orchard east of Temecula.  Actually, I don't know precisely how the event was billed, because I don't think I ever actually looked at the flyer.  Based purely on Denise's description I agreed that the idea sounded like fun and Denise began recruiting for the event.  My sisters Kathy and Jackie with her husband Mike all opted to join us for the day.  Thirty-five bucks a piece for an opportunity to learn a little bit about the olive oil business, pick some olives, taste some product, watch the pressing, all with a lunch of gourmet pizza from a travelling wood-fired pizza oven.

The day turned out to be a bunch of fun and very informative.  The place is beautiful.

We started off with a little tasting.  They have some very tasty olive oils, some infused with roasted garlic, basil, citrus, etc.  Delicious.  As you are tasting an olive oil they will mix a little Pomegranite or Vanilla-Fig-Balsamic Vinegar in with olive oils to create some very tasty vinaigrettes.

It's a little funny, sipping olive oil straight from a little portion cup, but it doesn't take long to get used to it.

After the tasting, we followed one of the proprietors down to the trees and learned more than I can possibly hope to remember about olives, olive trees, harvesting, grading of olive oils, why "extra-virgin" is largely a marketing thing, etc.  This was one of the highlights of the event for my spouse and sisters, as our guide was apparently smoking hot.  They dubbed him BTBR.  Apparently they overheard some woman saying that he looking like Billy Ray Cyrus.  They disagreed; "Better Than Billy Ray!"  They seem to have found him personable, intelligent, articulate and beautiful.  Just like me.

Olive Poo!
From the trees to the olive press, we got to see a little of the process of crushing the olives, which results in something looking like tapenade, "olive poo" I believe was the technical term.

The poo (or pooh, but that always makes me think of the bear) is expressed onto these circular metal screens, the screens then layered into a press and from thence, flows the oil.

Going to Press
Interestingly, you don't get a hell of a lot of oil.  I don't remember the specific numbers, but I think they said a ton of green olives produces about 25 gallons of oil.  Later in the season, the more mature, darker olives produce something like up to 80 gallons per ton.  Again, don't quote me, I wasn't taking notes, but you get the idea.

The crusher was pretty entertaining.  Big stainless steel rollers circle this vat and mash up the olives to free the oil and water from the fruit.  Apparently the olives are very bitter, but the bitter products are water soluble and separate out during the crushing process.
They grind olives, pits and all, the pits helping to break up the cell walls and free more of the juices.  The remaining pulp apparently makes good compost or bio-fuel, being very high in energy.

Add caption
 After the pressing came the picking.  It turns out, they staged the picking as a competition.  Two or three-person teams were supposed to pick as many olives as possible in a 15 minute period.  Denise and I put in what I considered to be a very respectable 7 pounds, considering that I was trying to be thorough and not waste any olives.  Jackie and Mike took the competition very seriously, their haul weighing in at 17 pounds.  Kathy was the only smart one, opting out of the competition and manning, excuse me, wo-manning the camera.  Sadly, Jackie and Mike finished second to another couple whose bag weighed in at 18.  There was some small controversy about the judges ruling, Jackie being fairly sure that her bag also showed 18 on the scale, but hey, this ain't college football.  No instant replay.  Besides, it was lunch time.

There was quite a line for lunch.  Happily, beer and sangria were being served, so I purchased several beverages to make the wait bearable.  The food was very good, salad and pizza, the pizza as I mentioned from a mobile pizzeria, Amalfi Mobile Pizzeria.  They had a pumpkin pizza that was really interesting, tasty, apparently invented last night, according to the staff.  I don't recall everything that was on it, but I am going to have to try a knock-off.  We got into a short conversation about wood-fired pizza ovens.  Apparently if you install one of your own these guys will come to your house and show you how to use it.  I am now freshly motivated to build my own.

For desert they served some chocolate brownies made with their Citrus Olive Oil.  I have got to find that recipe.

After lunch the show was mostly over.  Denise and I purchased a fresh bottle of Roasted Garlic Olive Oil and a bottle of the California Balsamico Bianco, a white balsamic vinegar made with honey produced on their ranch.  I believe one or both will be going into our dinner this evening.

I took the opportunity to buy Arbequina Olive Trees.  I was told these are smaller trees that will do well in pots.  I was also told olive trees like good drainage, which probably explains why my current tree is not producing; our soil is for crap, almost pure clay in spots.

Not to be outdone, returning to our house we had a little harvest festival of our own, picking some tomatoes and limes to send home with our visitors.  I even sent a habanero pepper with Jackie and Mike, recommending habanero peanut butter cookies, a personal favorite.

Anyway, in the end it was an excellent day.

More pictures can be found on my Picasa Olive Picking album.


Blogger khanten said...

It was extremely fun--and yummy! If only you would get enough olives so we could do a picking and pressing at your house! Then you could make us wood-fired pizzas in your new oven.

October 10, 2010 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger BJackie said...

Mike & I can come and do your harvesting when you tree starts producing. Clearly, we have a talent for it! BTW, I emailed Denise the brownie recipe but it's pretty easy - they just used the citrus olive oil to replace the veggie oil w/ a brownie mix and drizzled melted Ghiradelli (sp?) choc over the top.

October 10, 2010 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger BJackie said...

BTW, I can't believe you didn't include any of the pics of BTBR in your post.

If you figure out a knock-off of that pumpkin pizza, I'd like to get your recipe.

We used the garlic olive oil we bought last night on our sweet potato chips we made. And this morning we used our citrus olive oil in waffles. Delicious!

October 10, 2010 at 12:35 PM  
Anonymous DaWife DeNiece said...

There are a few pictures of BTBR on the picassa album but they are really bad pictures. The guy you see by the crusher is a different guy who works there. I think you must have to be with BTBR in person to get the full effect. Trust me on this....

October 10, 2010 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger BJackie said...

Yeah, but picture 58 out of 68 on the Picassa album is not bad of BTBR...

October 10, 2010 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger BJackie said...

Me again... Just made popcorn and used the citrus olive oil on it. Yum! We sprinkled it w/ a little bit of sugar and a little bit of kosher salt and it was delicious.

October 10, 2010 at 6:05 PM  

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