I have been asked how one might make olive oil, with the olives from a solitary tree and without an olive press. A recent trip to Mildura, post olive oil production and enlightened to learn from Giuseppa Callipari, that making it without a machine was a practice in Natile, Calabria for those who did not have many olives or access to an olive press.
This is what they had to do:
- Wait for the olives to go black,
- Pick and boil in a pot for 15 minutes
- Wait for them to cool
- Place them into a clean hessian bag to drain
- Sit the bag in a trough that allowed the liquid to drain over a lip into clay vessel
- Then get ready to do the tarantella!
Modelled off the method of wine- making, crushed the olives underfoot to make a pulp. Added water to the hessian sack that drew out the juices and left the pulp in tack, while the liquid poured into the vessel. Over time, the milky liquid would rise to the top, scooped with a spoon into a bottle that miraculously became transparent gold liquid.
Sometimes the puree was placed into a large ceramic deep bowl, water was added, stirred like a thick soup, the liquid drained into another bowl, removing the mush. The process of adding water, stirring and draining repeated and then the liquid left to sit. The oil would rise to the top, scooped off, then allowed to sit for a bit longer, more oil would rise to the top, scooped until all that was left at the bottom was water.
Ideas for lack of implements, became inventive solutions, for example an animal feed crusher was used to crush the ripe olives, to make the pulp, that was then sandwiched into pods made from rope called i sporti in Calabrese and also known as zambilli in a nearby village.
In the early years in Mildura, there were olive trees planted along the road, used for wind break, in a desert prone, dry environment and not much was know of the health benefits of olives, nor olive oil. The new Italian migrants missed the taste of home and saw the olive trees along the road helping themselves to the harvest.
In this new land they invented sustainable solutions that used local products repurposing and reimagining methods of practice. Chafe and hessian bags became part of the invention.
Giuseppa could sew and using old hessian sacks from animal feed she created the olive oil sporti to fit in il torquio (the wine press machine) which then enabled a solution for the olive pulp, using il torquio and warm water would press the pulp and draw out the oil into a concrete vat, not dissimilar to the process already described, but on a larger scale.
“My Father organized for a friend to send him a set of 24 sporti from Italy after he purchased the only olive press in Mildura. He set up an olive press in 1976, which he purchased from Uncle Condo, who had purchased it from Charlie Lai who worked for the Mildura Co-Op.
The Mildura oil press had came from France and was originally used to make olive oil that was sprayed on the dried sultanas as a preservative. Eventually they upgraded their machine. Olive oil as an ingredient was not popular then, but the Italians have since changed that and it’s very good for you.
People who heard about the only press in Mildura came to our house to make their oil. My Father was very generous and helped people.
The olive press is still there. Someone wanted to buy it to keep it as an historical memory. This was the way we made olive oil in Italy and then in Mildura.
We had an opportunity to buy an electrical olive press which we use now to make our oil. We make it for our family, but I also sold it at Peppa’s Cafe.”Giuseppa Callipari