Our group picture is on the cover! The article story was written by Christine Souza, photographed by Richard Green on the day of the pick, and Matt Salvo photographed the next day at the mill. The title is Branch to bottle, Crafting olive oil is a family affair.
Christine noted we planted French olive trees to keep busy in retirement and thus, The French Olive, was born. Though small, the business is a close-knit affair shared with family, friends, and fans of their unusual olive varietals that produce a mild, buttery extra virgin olive oil.
The French varietals were chosen for their flavor, high oil content, and ability to withstand freezing temperatures.
Christine also noted the annual cycle of production, starting with the small, white blossoms popping out in mid-May, the pea-sized olives that appear in late June, and the large, ripe olives that are ready for harvest in October-early November before the first frost.
Harvest is a social event, inviting family and friends to lend a hand, gathering to visit while picking, and later, enjoying good food & drink after the labor. All the fruit is picked by hand.
The large trees are harvested with special nets to catch the fruit, which are then dumped into bins. The smaller trees are picked with gathering buckets and also added to the bins.
Once loaded, the bins are transported to the Bozzano Olive Ranch in Stockton, about 30 minutes away. The olives are then poured into a water bath for cleaning and move on to be pressed into an olive mash. The mash is spun to separate the solids (which then is sold for cattle feed), with the liquid. The liquid is sent through a centrifuge to separate the oil from the water. All these processes are accomplished without heat (cold-press) or chemicals, resulting in a pure, fresh product. Transport and pressing are done within a 48-hour period so the oil can qualify as extra virgin olive oil. Owner of the mill, Jack Bozzano, is quoted saying, “They (The French Olive) take tender loving care of their olives and make great fresh olive oil. Unlike the Spanish and Italian varieties, they produce French varieties that are not commonly found in stores.”
The oil then rests in 5-gallon buckets to allow any sediment to settle before it is bottled into square, dark glass bottle chosen to ensure longer freshness. The oil is tested each year for quality to the standards set by the California Olive Oil Council. Our typical harvest is between 2-4 tons with an average yield of about 53 gallons oil/ton.
After bottling, the labels, which include the harvest date, are hand-applied by us before distribution and sales.
The fruit of our labor is enjoyed when we pour our “liquid gold” into a tasting dish or use in our favorite recipes. We have some recipes on the website here with more to come soon. Check them out.
But the best satisfaction is seeing others taste, savor, and use our oil. We thank our children first, as well as our extended family & friends who support our endeavors, and the fans who buy our oil.
For more information about this article, please visit the California Bountiful website.
Carole and Yancey