Olive Harvest 2008

Posted on November 19, 2008

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Every year, come Fall, we happily take part in the Galilee olive harvest ritual.  Until this year, this meant picking several buckets of olives – mostly green and one or two black – and curing them for our own and our friends’ enjoyment.  This year, however, we decided to be ambitious and make our own olive oil. 

Ron and our friend Tzvika scouted out potential trees in our respective villages – Alonei Aba and Bet Lehem Haglilit, and found several of the “Suri” variety which is considered to produce the most flavorful olives and oil.  Over 4 days Ron and Tzvika did most of the picking but my friend Miriam and I helped, joined by another friend Ruth.  Starting out first thing in the morning, we spread large plastic tarps under the trees to collect the olives, which we tried to pick efficiently without damaging the trees.  It is common in these parts to whack the branches with a long stick to bring down the fruit, a practice we do not subscribe to. 

The time between picking and going to the press is critical, as are the storage conditions during the interim period.  We kept our olives spread out in a thin layer in a shed near Tzvika’s carpentry workshop – dry and aerated.   On the appointed day we collected all the olives into 12 sacks  and set off for the village of Iksal at the foothills of Nazareth, to the press. 

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There are dozens of presses scattered around the Galilee and during the season, they work around the clock. At our press there is a festive atmosphere in the cavernous industrial space as each person in turn spills their olives into the hopper and watches as they enter the complex of machinery.  We load our 12 sacks onto a scale and are amazed to see 450 Kilos registered on the screen. 

After about 45 minutes of washing, pressing and separating, the fresh oil pours out in a lovely green stream into the waiting jerrycan.  Such suspense leading up to this moment!  How much oil will we get?  We bought 4 yellow plastic jerrycans – each holding 17 liters.  To our amazement, we needed to bring a 5th one. 

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All in all, 72 liters of oil – enough for each of us for an entire year.  Pungent and aromatic, the oil is now settling in our basement and soon we will transfer it into glass bottles. 

We still found time to prepare a few buckets of olives and this year, Ron’s black olives cured in salt are the hit in our house.  Our friend Mahmoud Nassar taught us to add an herb called “paygam” (in English, African Rue) to the black olives which, in spite of its noxious smell, brings out a delightful flavor.   

 

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