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CAP D’ONA BREWERY, ARGELES
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Catalan Cuisine Recipes Aioli Boles (...)
Choosing French Wine - An Introduction (...)
Chorizo Tapas with thanks to Caroline for (...)
Double and whipping cream in France (...)
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Festive French Food A dinner party (...)
Say cheese! Le fromage du chèvre
Guide to French Wine For people (...)
Catalan Cuisine (...)
Know your seafood Don’t be selfish with (...)
Mas Boutet: Olives the traditional way (...)
Olive industry reborn in the PO by Jane (...)
PO: World Leader in Vin Nature With Ted (...)
Prickly Pear Margarita
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Simple fig chutney Rich in minerals, a (...)
Vin de Pays and Appellation Controlée (...)
Vins primeurs Vins primeurs are the (...)
Visit to a Chevrerie Click to (...)
Le Plaisir d’offrir Say it with…
Thursday 3rd November 2011 Wine tasting (...)
Olive industry reborn in the PO
by Jane Mann
According to one of the many olive legends, Hercules, during the course of his labours, rested his mighty club on the ground. From it sprouted an olive tree. Once his labours were successfully completed, he took his tree to Olympia and planted an olive orchard for the gods. Reputedly the first in the Mediterranean. Since then they have been an important cash crop all around the Med. Indeed, in 1870 there were 108 olive oil mills in the P O alone.
Then the terrible winter of 1956 destroyed almost all the olive trees. Olive orchards were rooted up and vines planted. Spain survived and now accounts for more than 40% of world production. Since 1994, a programme of grants has encouraged the resurgence of the olive oil industry in France. It takes five years from planting the trees to harvesting the first crop of olives. For eight years, crossing the plain between Trouillas and Mas Sabole, I have watched tiny olive saplings grow into fine olive trees. Last year a sign announcing Vente d’Huile d’Olive appeared.
Similar signs are cropping up all over the départment. Olive Oil is once again being produced commercially by men passionate about the oil they produce.
Christian Pouil of la Ferme avicole de la Canterrane is one such man. His 9 hectares have just begun producing oil. His trees are planted 7 metres apart to allow natural development and to ensure maximum sunshine to the fruit. He explained how he waits for the exact moment in late October when his olives are 1/3 green, 1/3 violet and 1/3 black to start the harvest. Black olives give more oil but the quality suffers. Too green, not enough flavour. There should be no worms, minimum leaves and twigs in the olives sent to the mill. He knows all his trees personally. Chicken shit from his egg farm produces the only fertiliser he uses and very effective it is too. When they are ready, his olives are shaken into nets without touching the ground and taken straight to the mill at Millas. He picks up the oil the next day. He assured me there was no risk of them being muddled with any olives less carefully grown or gathered. He would collect the precious oil as soon as it had been extracted and return to Les Oliviers de la Canterrane where it would stand for three months to allow any sediment to sink before bottling.
I went to the Millas.
In the old building of La Catalane is a museum and shop, and, on a nearby industrial estate, in the modern mill were Christian Pouil’s olives, about to enter the complex stainless steel machinery to have their oil extracted. Thanks to rising fuel prices it is no longer cost effective to send the stones and mush to Spain where they would extract the last dregs of oil to be added to inferior cooking oils. Instead, at Millas, a new machine makes fantastic fuel for central heating out of the stones and the mush is used as excellent compost. Nothing is wasted.
The number of mills in the Pyrénées Orientales is growing. In 1976 La Catalane at Millas was the only one. Now they are springing up all over the place. At nearby Mas Saint Pierre for example, Monique and Joseph Planes have the latest in oil extracting machinery and 30 hectares of olive trees. New “oliveraies” start with new trees, choosen carefully from the 600 varieties available.
The olive, the terroir and the method of culture all contribute to the taste of the olive oil. At all the mills you are made welcome and will be given a tasting and guided tour.