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What Are the Best Tips for Making Olive Oil?

Olive tree.
An olive grove.
Olive oil is great for cooking a variety of meals.
A bar of soap made with olive oil.
Containers of olive oil.
Untreated olives must be used to make olive oil.
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  • Written By: P.M. Willers
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2014
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Olive oil is an oil extracted from olives, the fruit of the olive tree. It is typically imported and sold in stores, but making olive oil at home is possible. With a little effort and fresh olives, you may find that making olive oil at home results in a delicious treat.

The first step in making olive oil is selecting the right olives. Either green or black olives can be used, but they must be fresh and untreated. Olives may also be obtained directly from a tree by picking or shaking. If there are no olive trees where you live, fresh olives can be purchased from an olive producer, at a farmer's market, or in a specialty supermarket.

Olives should be separated from leaves, twigs, and other debris and cleaned completely before use. When making olive oil, it is not necessary to remove the pits. Removing pits will actually detract from your final yield.

The olives will then be crushed with enough force to make a paste. A traditional method of crushing is a mortar and pestle, although anything that is able to grind the olives into a wet paste will work. One helpful tip is to crush the olives as slowly as possible. It may seem tempting to use a food processor, but if the olives are made into a paste too quickly, bitter flavors may be present in the oil.

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After crushing, the olive paste should be slowly mixed for 20 to 40 minutes. This process is necessary and critical for successful olive oil. A slow mixing process is necessary because it allows time for microscopic droplets of oil to combine into larger ones, which will then be extracted. If this step is left out, your oil yield will be much smaller.

The paste should then be spread and pressed to squeeze out the vegetal liquid, a mixture of both oil and water. Letting the liquid sit is the traditional method for separating the oil and water. After a long enough time has passed, the oil and water will naturally separate. If you have the patience, this can be a good at-home method.

If a centrifuge is available while making olive oil, the separation process will be both faster and more thorough. Centrifugal separation works by spinning the vegetal solution fast enough so that the difference in density between the oil and water causes the liquids to separate and gather or collect in different areas. Once the oil has been separated from the water, it should be filtered again to remove any particles left behind. This step can be skipped to produce a cloudier, more natural appearance.

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literally45
Post 3

Before industrialization, people used a millstone to press olives to make olive oil. Making olive oil at home today basically involves the same process. But not everyone has a millstone to their use. A mortar and pestle isn't really useful unless it's huge. The small ones for kitchen use won't get one far in terms of crushing olives. It will take too much effort and only so many olives can be crushed at once.

For those living in areas where olive production occurs, some farms may have the facilities for olive pressing and may be willing to press olives for a small fee. My grandfather used to send the olives from our olive trees to a nearby farm. He paid for the processing and in return we got excellent olive oil at very little cost to us.

fBoyle
Post 2

@turquoise-- If you have just a few pounds of olives from the farmer's market, then I'd say that it's not worth extracting the oil either. You would be better off curing or pickling the olives and eating them directly.

Homemade olive oil is amazing but it only makes sense to do it if you have your own olive trees and have a lot of fruit to make use of. And if you're serious about it, you could invest in a centrifuge and make delicious homemade olive oil every season.

For everyone else, the investment would be costlier than the produce and I agree that it's easy to mess up. Olives are naturally bitter and when it comes to any edible olive product, special care must be taken to remove the bitterness. No one wants bitter olive oil.

turquoise
Post 1

I didn't know that olive oil could be made at home. It's tempting but the process has stages and they sound very detailed. I'm sure if the steps aren't followed to the T, the results could be bad. So I don't think I would actually try this. And plus, it will take too long and the oil that is extracted will be a small amount. It's just not worth the effort.

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