I must first apologise for the lack of blogs this year, when I looked back and saw that the last one was in June I was really shocked, we have been so very busy this year and time has just rushed by.
What has prompted this posting is the exciting news that we have finally got our very own olive oil, well almost. Let me explain. We have a couple of friends who live close by and have 30 large and unkempt olive trees, they live here in Portugal but have to travel regularly to the UK for work so they knew that they would need help with their olive harvest this year. We happily volunteered. Picking olives is hard work but its fun too and such a wonderfully satisfying activity when you see buckets and sacks bulging with the lovely little black and green beauties. This year was a good year for olives despite the sad fact that many people had their olives burnt up in the huge wildfire that happened on the 15th October. We had 10 of our trees burned and hope that they will re-sprout in the spring however we did have a lot of olives on the other trees, thousands in fact!
Our trees were literally laden with olives, so many that the branches were bent over, touching the ground.
So we got together with our friends and spent two happy tiring days in the sun picking over at their place just below the village of Vila do Mato in the Mondego river valley. The weather was beautiful, blue sky and a winter warm sun (i.e. warm when you got out of the northerly wind!). Lunch was provided by Sarah and Keith, lovely warming soup with homemade bread and we organised the BBQ at the end of the day.
We loaded up the van and then spent day 3 picking our olives. Not such lovely weather, a steady but wet drizzle all day, not very good for the olives but we did manage to pick 51 kilos from our remaining trees, we were very chuffed with this.
Then that night we went off to our local Lagar (olive press) which is here in Lagares da Beira. The van was full of sacks and buckets of olives although we had absolutely no idea how many kilos we had actually picked. Firstly you reverse up to a huge grate set in the floor of the pressing room, the olives are tipped down through the grate and go up various conveyer belts until they reach the massive weighing hopper. I could not believe my eyes when the figure of 299 appeared on the LED sign next to the office. THATS 299 KILOS OF OLIVES!!!
The exciting thing then is going back 24 hours later to pick up our oil. This is when you find out how much actual oil 299 kilos of olives make, it varies every year usually due to the weather and growing conditions and this year was very, very dry. However, we collected 41 litres of the most gorgeous, still green extra virgin olive oil, it tasted wonderful, creamy and smooth with a slight peppery finish, delicious and worth the aching backs and knees. We are very excited to be able to provide our visitors with our own oil as well as enjoying it ourselves. I have also brined and salted two huge bucket loads of olives (about 15 kilos) for eating, they won't be ready for a while but I will let you all know how they taste. I have tried two different techniques, one using lots of sea salt and nothing else, the other making a salt brine and soaking the olives. We will see which method is best.