Saturday, October 29, 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.


Anonymous said...

I've had the Miller blend and it is very yummy!

Michael said...

I finally got around to buying some unfiltered Olive Oil, it was a new and interesting treat. People should try unfiltered olive oil, it's kind of delicious. Chef John, do you know why it's mostly extra virgin that gets sold?

Chris K. said...

It annoys me that I can't find decent olive oil in the supermarket. Price point isn't helpful, because the expensive stuff is often cut and blended. Since there's very little restrictions on imported olive oil, it's kind of difficult to know what you're really buying at the supermarket.

I usually buy Bertoli because it's cheap, but I'm not really crazy about it. Sclafani imports an unfiltered EVOO (Rachel Ray LOL) that's pretty good but sometimes hard to source.

Can anybody recommend a brand of reliably decent, widely available, extra virgin olive oil?

Chef John said...

May i suggest something from the California Olive Ranch. ;)

Pantalone said...

That's amazing ... those olive trees are really "just" bushes ... pretty efficient operation.

Interesting peek into the olive oil production business.

Anonymous said...

That was very cool - thanks for sharing the video!

Judy said...

Their oil is actually really wonderful! I bought two giant bottles at Costco in a pack together a while back, and am on bottle number two. I use it pretty much daily, and will be buying more! :)

Unknown said...

In 2013, a friend sent me a list of names of "real" olive oils out on the market. I was ecstatic to see that California Olive Ranch made the list of 100% PURE olive oils. One point the article made (sorry, I totally wish I had the title and the link), was the pure olive oil will solidify in the refrigerator, while those cut with other lesser oils will not. I only buy California Ranch, and the first time I used it to make my homemade Italian dressing, it did solidify. I can find it in any of our local health food stores, and even at our local Walmart. Our Costco even sells an organic version, but it's infused with garlic, so not for my everyday cooking.