In Italy, late October and early November is the season of the olive harvest. All over the country families gather to strip the mythical trees of their fruit, which pitter patter delightfully onto the nets bunched below. When their trees stand bare, the families gather the olives in burlap sacks and plastic crates and take their harvest to the local frantoio, or olive press. While the press hums away inside, outside a fire burns and locals toast bruschetta, sample their fresh oil, and compare the first batches of their young homemade wine.
Towards the end of the fall semester 2012, JFRC students participated in this Italian celebratory harvest. It took a day and a half of hard work, and the hands of many students, but the more than forty olive trees on campus were stripped bare. SLA Jack Spittle and eight students then took the resulting 1,200 pounds of olives to a frantoio just north of Rome in the countryside. There they saw the pressing process first hand: they watched their olives as they were cleaned, chopped, mixed, and then pressed. Forty-five minutes later their oil began to ooze out, and continued to do so for half an hour, after which seventy litres of the ancient green liquid rested in four massive containers.
The quality of a particular olive oil is determined by a variety of factors, but the classifications generally seen on labels are determined by acidity level. The JFRC oil has an acidity level of just .35%, which makes it extra virgin oil, the highest quality!!!