Thursday, November 17, 2011

Going To The Olive Processing Factory

You will need to go to the olive processing plant within a few days of picking your olives, otherwise they will start to rot and will not produce good quality olive oil. Before you go to the plant, ensure you have enough plastic bottles or plastic tubs to put your olive oil in. 

Generally speaking, you will produce around 1 litre of oil for every 4 - 6 kilograms of olives, depending on the quality of the crop that year.  You have to pay to process your olives, but it is not expensive, you should expect to pay less than 2 – 3TL per litre.

The modern olive processing plant can be very noisy, and you will leave with the smell of olive oil on your clothes, so make sure you are not wearing your Sunday best! It is not really a place to take young children, as there is potentially dangerous machinery, but it is a great experience for older children and adults alike. You need to get to the processing plant very early in the morning to avoid the queues, or alternatively some plants are open in the afternoons as well. Make sure you keep your place in the queue, and ensure you take notice of who is in front of you. 

The olive oil made at the processing plants in North Cyprus is generally “cold pressed” which makes the best quality extra virgin olive oil. If you start to heat olive oil above room temperature, some of the quality is lost, and it can seriously affect the taste and texture of the oil. Extra virgin olive oil is oil produced from the first pressing or processing of the olives. Other olive oil such as olive pomace oil is made from olives that have been pressed more than once, which produces cheaper oil, but of inferior quality.

To process the olives, they are first loaded into a big hopper, and then up a conveyor belt into the first machine. 

 the conveyor belt

The first machine is the shaking and washing machine, which shakes out any leaves and generally gives the olives a quick clean.

 the shaking and washing machine

Then they go back into another hopper, than then into an Auger machine, which has large screw-like plates inside which mashes the olives to a pulp and then compresses them.

the Auger machine

The mashed olives are transferred to another holding area, as it is used by the plant to make olive bricks, which make brilliant fuel for winter fires.

 the mashed olive pulp

In the next step, the oil is transferred from the Auger machine into a centrifuge, where water is added, and the oil is spun with the water at a very high speed to flush out any remaining impurities. 

the centrifuge

Because water is heavier than oil, the oil is then purified, and is then transferred to another hopper with a tap at the bottom where you can collect your very own virgin olive oil. 

 the finished product!

Once you have been to the processing plant and have got your oil, you need to leave it completely still in a dark place for approximately 6 weeks to settle. You will notice that a thick sediment forms on the bottom of the container, which you can strain off later. Some people like to change the containers after 6 weeks, and drain off the sediment, but it is fine to leave the sediment in as long as you tip the oil slowly and do not tip it in your dinner!

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