Saturday, January 5, 2008

1/4/08 Everything We Wanted To Know About Olives

Today we joined about thirty others on a Tag Along to the Queen Creek Olive Mill.

It was quite an adventure to get there to say the least. We rode with our neighbors Dave and Darlene as Bob hasn't had a chance to go over the truck since we've gotten it back from the repair facility. We know already that the oil filter wasn't seated properly and it is leaking so we didn't want to drive it a hundred miles until he has a chance to fix that.

We had Mapquest directions that I printed out, Dave's GPS, "Lucy" was fired up and Darlene had a paper map and we still couldn't find our way! After a phone call and a stop for directions we finally arrived two hours after we left Quail Run RV Resort. We did find out that we weren't the only ones who had trouble. It seems for unknown reason that GPS systems can't find this place, Mapquest can't print good directions and the olive mill itself doesn't have any signs out even though they know of these problems.

One good thing about our lost time was that we got to see what strange animals the locals keep for pets. In addition to the normal dogs and cats and horses we saw ostriches, a zebra and even a Brahma Bull! Not your typical household pets.

So we finally arrived but it was too late to join the majority of RV residents that made it there just shortly before we did on the tour they were on.

We were surprised to find that the "mill" was in such a small building considering this was the whole operation. Store, cafe and processing mill, all in one building. Queen Creek Olive Mill is the only working olive mill and farm in Arizona.

A closeup of the fountain the courtyard where many enjoy lunch after the tour.

We walked through the store part of the building while waiting for our tour. I had never seen so many bottles of different kinds of olive oil!

There were lots of samples of oil to taste and also stuffed olives. We tried the olives stuffed with dried tomatoes and basil and a bottle of those ended up in our basket. We also bought Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), dipping oil, chili olive oil and one other thing that I can't think of right now.

Kari, our tour guide called us all together for the beginning part of our tour. We sat out in the garden area and started learning more than any of us ever thought we would know about olives or olive oil. Harvest time is anywhere from mid September to the end of November. The branches of the olive tree hang down like a weeping willow when full and the workers either hand pick or use a rake like tool and comb the branches to get the fruit to fall to the mat on the ground below. At this mill, if an olive drops to the ground, has any form of fungus or insect infestation, it isn't used its discarded. Here's an olive tree in case you've never seen one before.

We moved inside to the processing room, a relatively small room. We would guess it to measure roughly 15' x 40'. It is in here that the olives are washed, milled to a paste, mixed and the oil separated. A scientifically designed decanter spins the olive paste at a high rate of speed separating the heavier flesh, pits and most of the water from the oil.

The next step is decanting. The oil is transferred to an oxygen free stainless steel storage container where the oil and water are allowed to separate naturally. The oil is then passed through a paper filter to remove any unwanted impurities that remain and the oil is now at its peak of freshness and taste.

We learned that oil can have a fruity, peppery, grassy or buttery taste. We also learned that there are six grades of olive oil. Kari, our guide, pointed out that light virgin olive oil is next to last on the list of oils that you want to buy. She went on further to say that a lot of people buy the "light" olive oil thinking it is less in calories or has a lighter taste. This is not the case,,,,its mostly chemicals. She strongly recommended to us that if we have this in our cupboard to throw it out.

Black olives. I thought they grew that way. Also not the case. Black olives are nothing more than bruised, mildewed or in some way less than perfect green olives that are infused with pure oxygen to give it the black color. This way the distributors can sell them and the consumer thinks they are eating something natural and good.

Soon our tour was over and we headed back to the truck. We decided it was time for lunch and made our way to TGI Friday's. Afterwards, since it was still early in the day, we decided to go to the Mesa Flea Market. Its HUGE! Bob and I will definately be coming back here. If they don't sell it, you don't need it!

It was a fun day and a tag along we're glad we went on.


LaVon Baker said...

I don't think Kari told our group about the black olives. YUK! And I used to like them. I think I feel sick.
We loved the Mesa Market too... a repeat trip will happen. We should all go together.
Great post.

Tobi said...

You should try out Google Maps. Especially when you are on the road as much as you guys are, you cannot afford inferior directions from MapQuest.