I moved to Italy expecting great food. I had no idea that it would be something as simple and fundamental as olive oil that would forever alter my tastes.
New olive oil is impossibly green:
It is a greenness that you can taste.
New olive oil still has the flavor of the earth that the fruit grew from.
This fall, I was up at my favorite agriturismo in Tuscany. And yes, I know how ridiculous that last sentence sounded, thank you very much. But bare with the unavoidable pretentiousness of putting that into writing, because the farm is amazing and every spare weekend I get, I sneak up there to Pienza. I went there for the first time in November with a friend because we were hoping to pick olives. Unfortunately, it rained the whole time.
After feeding us the newly pressed olive oil in an attempt to cheer us up in the inclimate weather, the owner of the agriturismo had a problem on his hands- we were hooked. Since the weather was too wet for doing any picking, he offered to take us to the mill. To his utter surprise, we said yes. To an Italian, the mill is boring. To me, it was fascinating.
Families drop off their olives in giant crates, labeled with their names, so that they can later pick up the oil that is specifically from their harvest.
First, the olives go rush by at hyper speed to shake free all the twigs and leaves.
The debris-free fruit gets transfered into a completely unromantic looking stainless steel vat.
But what comes out the other end is pure liquid gold- fresh, green oil:
Another spout takes care of all the water-y non-oil yuck. (Sorry if that’s all too technical for you. Just trust me).
The green green green oil is then transfered into the family’s jugs and containers so they can take home their year’s supply of oil.
If you’re dining out in Italy after the olive harvest, ask for “olio nuovo.” Drizzle it over bread (NO- no adding vinegar and dipping the bread), and you have a mini-feast for your pre-dinner enjoyment.
I’m only getting around to publishing this now because I became aware of my ever-dwindling supply of Podere San Gregorio oil. There’s no point in saving it since the oil’s flavor will change and mellow over time, but I hate to say goodbye.