Thursday, December 20, 2012

Olive Oil Production

20121210_222210 Olive Oil is produced by crushing the olive fruit including the stone into a paste and then extracting the oil from it.

For me this is a learning process. The value chain seems to be a very labor intensive.

The process begins with the fruit being harvested: each tree is surrounded by a net and the ripe olives dislodged with mechanical combs or shakers.

I learn more: “Pesticide-residue determination in olive oil is becoming a very important and challenging issue.”

A powerful blowing machine puffs away residual twigs and leaves, the olives are gently crushed, along with their stones and the paste is mixed.

Olives and olive oil have a long, rich heritage that date back to the beginning of history. It is said the first sign of life seen by Noah after the deluge was the branch of an olive tree brought back by a dove.

Even now the olive branch continues to be used as a symbol of life and peace.

Today, about 95% of the world’s olive oil production takes place in the Mediterranean region, although consumption continues to spread around the globe.

Spain is the world's largest producer of olive oil. The European Commission has released a brief report on olive oil production expectations towards year 2020.

Based mainly on statistical analysis and predictions about the progression of the oil industry compared to past trends, the report is concerned with the ‘big three’ of the olive oil sector; Spain, Italy and Greece.

In 1959, the United Nations supported the creation of the International Olive Council (IOC) in Madrid, Spain, to facilitate international policy and developments in the field of olives and olive oil.

Since then, the IOC has been the leading global authority on standards and research in the olive oil world. That’s why you will find frequent references in these pages to IOC standards and quality definitions. The map below will give you a snapshot of where olive oil is produced and consumed today.

There are two ways of doing this: the traditional method using grindstones for the crushing and churning of the fruit and means of pressure to extract the oil; and the modern method using large mills to transform the olive fruit into paste and centrifuges for oil extraction.

The leaves leave a bitter taste in the oil, so the mill works hard to leave them behind.

The supply for olive oil is very straightforward: production, processing, packing, and distribution.

Some of the key factors that should be investigated in greater detail.

  • Fertilization
  • Soil management
  • Irrigation of groves
  • Pruning of trees
  • Plant health treatment
  • Harvesting (hand picking)
  • Fruit haulage to the mill

Extraction Process
Oil production begins with transforming the olives into a paste. The paste is slowly churned or 'malaxed' in a mixer for 20-40 minutes.

This allows the small oil droplets, which formed during the original pasting of the olives, to group, making it easier to separate the oil from the rest of the paste. The paste is heated to 27 degrees Celsius during this process.

The amount of oil obtained is directly proportional to the temperature and mixing time. However, higher temperatures and a longer mixing period increase oxidation, which reduces shelf life. Modern processes use a layer of gas such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide over the olive paste.

This greatly reduces oxidation, resulting in a higher yield without compromising the quality of the oil. Modern methods also use a decanter centrifuge to extract the oil. The leftover substance contains small amounts of oil and is known as pomace.

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