Friday, October 28, 2011

Riding High at the California Olive Ranch

Michele and I were invited to tour the California Olive Ranch this week, where we got a firsthand look into how olive oil is produced. The ranch is the largest producer in California, and uses state-of-the-art equipment and technology to produce extra virgin olive oil that’s cold pressed within a few hours of picking.

I was shocked to learn that only two percent of the olive oil purchased in the United States is made domestically, but thanks to producers like California Olive Ranch that number is sure to be going up. The oils are reasonably priced, and tend to be more on the buttery/fruity side, than their more intense and peppery European counterparts.

The ranch plants three varieties of olives that were selected especially for the high-density planting method they employ; Arbequina and Arbosana from Spain, and Koroneiki from Greece. The trees are much more shrub-like than one would expect, but perfectly suited for the ranch’s unique harvesting methods.

It would have been cool enough just to watch how these olives are harvested, but when we were actually invited to climb up on the Oxbo picking rig, the tour went to a whole other level…literally, like 20 feet off the ground. I was amazed at how quickly the large bin next to the picker was filled with fruit. Luckily the machine has a large storage unit inside which holds the olives until another bin is brought into position.

After a loud, dusty, but nonetheless thrilling ride though the fields, we headed into the mill where we saw the rest of the process, as the olives were turned into oil in a remarkably short amount of time. The tour ended with a tasting, where I enjoyed everything I sampled, especially their Miller's Blend. We also got to taste some bright green, just-pressed olive oil, which was a rare and special treat for sure.

By the way, we were joined on the trip by Amy Sherman from Cooking with Amy, Chrystal Baker from The Duo Dishes, Aleta Watson from The Skillet Chronicles, and Jane Bonacci from The Heritage Cook. I invite you to check out their blogs for what I’m sure will be more great coverage.

Here’s a short video with some of the sights and sounds from our tour. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into what I found to be quite a fascinating experience. A sincere thank you to Kirsten Wanket, Mike Forbes, and the rest of the California Olive Ranch team for all their hospitality. Enjoy!

Disclosure: This is not a paid endorsement, or sponsored post, however, the California Olive Ranch did take us out for a lovely dinner after the tour, and provided us with overnight hotel accommodations.

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