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Posts Tagged ‘olive trees’

Making Our Olive Oil

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This is our first bottle of home-grown olive oil from this years crop. We did not think we had enough olives to press but then it rained! not a lot but enough to fill them out a little.  Now we could pick the olives and take them to the local commercial press but there is a snag.  The presses are still making wine and our olives are turning black so by the time the second week of November comes round we would have no olives.  You can’t pick and save them for nearly a month because by that time they will have shrivelled up and gone like stones, so on the basis of that last year we decided to do it ourselves. Along with a little ‘heath robinson’ approach a dash invention and a good dollop of *&$%£ing we ended up with 6x1lts of our own oil.

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When we decided to pick this year, the trees looked like they had black leaves so we started with the tree in front of the house. So we spread a large net under the tree, Michael got the step-ladder and small saw I got my ‘picking chair’ and we were off.  All the olives that fell to the ground – and missed the net – were picked up and placed into the old cement mixer which is our crusher. Large stones were added and it was turned on and left to do its job.

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After a while we had a pulp which Michael then wrapped in cloth and placed in the press, then the real work begins. The press is turned until the oil starts to run then every few hours till eventually no more oil is left.  Then the container is brought into the kitchen where it is filtered several times until we have a clear oil.  This takes a few days but is worth it. The oil when it comes from the press is a combination of black sludge a little water and the oil itself.  To separate the oil and water its left to stand until there is a visible layer of oil of the top then it’s passed into one of three lemonade bottles to begin the filtering.  When you are trying to filter the oil some of the black sludge gets in there so the first filter takes that out, the second takes out any cloudy residue and the third and final filter is to make sure the other two have done their job then it’s poured into 1ltr bottles before being capped and stored.

 

Black Redstarts and Bloody Pigs

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I like to think this is one of Sam’s brood. For those of you who haven’t met Sam before he was a little Black Redstart who became my gardening friend.  When I was digging he would be there to see if there were any grubs/insects he could eat. Michael thought he was funny and we were heart broken when we came home one day to find him dead in front of the house, so in his memory I called the tree garden ‘Sam’s Garden’ and things in it have done very well.  We got the boys last year and yesterday we heard this bird calling to them.  Then this morning there was the Redstart sitting first on the tv areal then flying down to see what I was doing in the saffron garden.

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This is what the saffron garden SHOULD look like! below is how it looks after the piggy wigs have been there!!!

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What was I doing there??  trying to find any saffron bulbs that the wild boar hadn’t eaten!!!!  I had over 40 bulbs in that garden I have exactly 15 left, so I am planting them in a tub so at least I shall get a few bits of saffron this year.  But I did have a nice surprise I found one crocus open in the small walled garden with others on the way I just hope the boar don’t find them or there could be saffron flavoured pork on the menu…

Well there you have it, do it yourself olive oil making and gardening forest style.

(c) M D Bosc  – Author –

 

 

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Olives and Sam’s Garden

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For those of you who don’t know this is Sam. He was the little Black Redstart who followed me around the garden and played hide and seek in the tree.  We found him laying dead on the gravel one afternoon when we returned from petanca, to say it broke my heart was an understatement. This little chap had provided me with hours of fun and Michael was fascinated by the antics of this little wild bird.  So I decided that I would re-do the center and surround of the olive tree next to the house and call it Sam’s Garden in his memory.

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To begin with I thought to leave the tree garden as it was but viewing it in flower last spring I decided that it needed some filling and just a little tweaking, so here’s what I’ve  done.

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These two photos are the ‘before’ ones showing the garden before I got going. As you can see the tree is very old and divided into three parts. The front two face the house with the third trunk facing the drive. Now unfortunately olive trees grow lots of shoots which have to be cut off and these are no exception, so snipers in hand I got stuck in.  Whilst I was at it I rebuilt the small wall at the base of the little slope then made another at the top forming a small area that I can grow Nasturtiums in and let them tumble-down naturally.

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Then I turned my attention to the front part.  This faces the rose garden, and what a surprise I had, there poking their heads out were two snowdrops. Now when I dug up the lilies which were taking over – only the small clump remains – I found lots of small bulbs in them but didn’t know what they were so I simply replanted them and hoped they would grow.  I had originally planted snowdrops and crocus Michael had bought me but only saw a few crocus appear.  Now I know why so am hoping for a small show next spring.

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These two photos show the  ‘after’ look.  In the first one you can see the small wall at the bottom of the slope and the new one at the top. The clump of leaves in the centre are wild Grape Hyacinths, these grow everywhere and I am constantly digging them up and re-planting them. The second photo shows the drive side and the clump of wild asparagus I found.

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Last year Michael decided that the trunks near the house would look good shaped like saucers and we could leave the back trunk for the birds to play in, so saw in hand he set too. The result is quite good and as it grows we can shape it into shade cover for the bird bath and strawberry patch.

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Ok take a look at this.  This my gardening friends is Wild Asparagus.  It grows around the olive trees and in the forest, so I have cut it back to ensure it produces the tender slim shoots that taste heavenly and make a really tasty omelet.  I shall be wandering round the fields snipers in hand cutting back any I find to ensure we have a good supply.  The season only lasts for a short while but mmmmmmm worth work.

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

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Whilst reading through posts from my friends on Facebook I came across one from El Brogit Guiatges which interested me. They are keen to get people involved with the countryside, vineyards and Cellers to promote the great wine of the Monsant region.  You can go on various walks taking from a half day to three/four days, they also aim to promote the natural history and beauty of the Monsant Mountains. So loving wine, being interested in nature and in need of some exercise I decided we would join them on their walk to this Sunday.

Look at the map of the roads in the Monsant and Priorat regions and they appear as thick lines some not as thick but only slightly wiggly.  In real life however they are very wiggly! On a beautiful sunny morning, we took the road from Falset into the mountains along a very sneaky snaky road. Round bends that bent, corners, twists and turns to the top of the pass, from where the view of the valley was encompassing. From here it was a meander into the valley and Porrera, passing people in the fields picking hazelnuts, before taking another road upwards and onwards to our destination in Cornudella de Monsant, where we arrived around 10.00am.

On arrival we were greeted by one of our guides Meritxell a pleasant young lady who spoke good English and introduced us to Sergi our other guide.  After we were all assembled and been handed our tickets for the Celler we set off up through the village and out into the countryside.

I did say walk didn’t I? Well for me it was more of a hike but a very spectacular one.  Walking out of the village we began to climb towards the fields and the top of a ridge. The beginning was about a 30dgs climb, I am not used to this degree of exercise so it was head down one foot forward. Wow! look at the views Siurana to the east, with its lake glittering in the sunlight.

Now the climb was getting steeper, and the younger people were getting ahead of me but they paused to wait for my wife and Meritxell to catch up photographs had been taken.  So turning again we started upwards, it looked so steep and the mesa looked very high, no wonder they have a climbing centre here.  Then we reached a field just below the ridge and stopped for something to drink and a rest.

The views from here were even more beautiful.  Off we set again on the last part of our climb then as they say it was all down hill towards the hermitage of San Juan.  This is an old chapel used by the Cistercian Monks, but even they did not like the long climb so halfway up there is a shrine which they used. As for the farmers, they were so poor that they could not afford a chapel so they made do with a large rock ‘rock of prayer’ where they went to pray when in the fields.

Arriving at the Chapel we found there was a spring and after filling water bottles we wandered round to the front. Here we were divided into two teams and played a game of charades, everyone taking part with laughter.

We had just finished this when a Pirate appeared and handed the two team captains an envelope for the treasure hunt so off we went down towards the lower fields in search of treasure.

Once in the fields the captains opened the envelopes and looked at the treasure map, somewhere in amongst the 60 to 70-year-old vines were two keys which when matched with pictures would reveal the prize.  Well we found the keys and grapes, now what? then we saw a monk walking towards us carrying two bags. He welcomed us and said the captains should match their keys against those on the bags, when they were opened one had a bottle of wine inside the other had pieces of paper one with a mark on it so whoever picked it won the wine.  A young lady won to cheers and laughter (there was a lot of that) we took group pictures then made our way down to the Celler Baronia del Monsant.

These walks are not only interesting but fun. You see the countryside, meet people and generally enjoy a good walk.  If you are interested, you can contact Meritxell or Sergi on www.elbrogit.com/home.html    Happy Walking

 

The Celler

The Celler was a big surprise. Most of the Cellers we have visited were large, but this one is small and like a pocket Venus, small, but perfectly formed.

As you enter there is the shop selling the 6 wines they make here and displaying their prize certificates for their wines. Behind this is the area where in the harvest the grapes are brought to be processed. A young lady called Laura was our guide round the Celler, very helpful and informative.  Unlike other areas, tractors cannot harvest these fields so all picking is done by hand, and because of the weather up here grapes can take longer to ripen.  So they are brought to the Celler in grey boxes not trailors, then processed in the electric machines that like the Celler are small but perfect.

There is the machine where the stalks are separated, next to that is the crusher from where the grapes are pumped downstairs, all on castors so they can be moved around for storage.  Just to one side of the celler door is the bottling unit, and from here 90% of the wine is sold abroad.

Down stairs you find around 14 stainless steel vats, and to my surprise they use the open top method. Here the grape skins float to the top and form a crust which is kept damp by spraying grape juice over them thus preventing bacteria from forming and spoiling the wine.   From here the wine is placed into Oak barrels to mature.  These barrels are made from either American oak which gives the wine a vanilla note and French oak which gives the wine a spicy note.  It is only when the wine has matured that it is blended, until then each variety of grape is processed on its own.  The barrels are dated when the wine is put in and then the date when they are ready for blending is placed near the top so the blender can see when it is ready.

Then we came to the tasting of the 6 wines produced here. The first from the Garnatxa grape was ‘flor d’englora garnatxa 2009’. This wine I enjoyed immensely it was light and a little on the sweeter side which, in my opinion, was perfect for sipping at the end of the day sitting on the terrace watching the stars.  The other wines that followed became increasingly drier, ideal in my opinion, to be drunk with well hung beef or game, the last was a softer blend. But I have to say that my personal preference  was for the flor d’englora garnatxa.

This is an interesting Celler which needs further investigation so I am hoping to visit it again soon. This time to delve more into its history and the blending of the wines. If you would like to taste some of these wines and savour the flavours or match them with various meals you can find them on www.baronia-m.com  or reach them on engloria@baronia-m.com .

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On The Way To Exhibition Halls

Yesterday was Sunday, warm, sunny and inviting, so what to do on such a day?  join your friends at a Honey and Olive Oil fair, so we did just that. This is a fair that happens every year to celebrate and promote the local honey and olive oil. Here you can buy oil and oil products such as olive pate and a very nice relish. With the honey you can buy everything from honey already in jars ready to sell or jars filled from large tubs according to your taste.  There was makeup, a rather nice honey based lip balm (so the ladies informed me) creams, lotions candles as well as honey beer.  It is possible to taste your way round the main hall and believe me it is well worth it.  There are different flavours of honey and oil just as there are flavours in wine.  Also on display were two stands which are part of the El Perello structure.

The Freesia Group

The Freesia Group a charity set up to raise money in the against fight cancer.  They are based in El Perello where the lady in this picture has lived for the last 19 years.  Very important people.

El Traginer Magazine

This is the El Traginer stand, staffed by two happy, cheerful people.  El Traginer is a local free Catalan  magazine, containing information besides advertising services and items and property for sale. It also advises you, in detail, of what is on and when with a  programme of activities plus their times.   This then is the  Mel i Oli Fira 2011.

Olive Oil

A Selection of Olive Oil

El Perello  is known for its Olive Oil and there were several producers displaying their oils.  These ranged from a pale green colour to an almost golden green.  One producer Joan Pinol produces their oil using the traditional stone crushed method. The olives are crushed by cone shaped stones then pressed through straw mats.  

 MEL (Honey)  

A Honey Shop - Cosmetics, Candles & Mel

I am under the impression that Honey or Mel as we call it here, is as important if not more so than the Olive Oil, possibly because El Perello is the main village producer in Catalunia. I also think that as it is a continuing, active, occupation which, unlike olive oil, where after the crop is harvested during November/December and the pruning time in March, the trees are basically left to themselves; bees on the other hand, cannot be left as keepers will tell you. It is an all year round occupation and the Bee Keeping Society is very active here.

A Display of Bees

One of the things they do is to get the children interested. In this way they not only see the bees at work, but how they live in the hives, the workers doing their bit, how the pollen is passed to them after collection and of course, the end results. Bees need attention to ensure they are healthy, and content, (angry bees are a bad scenario). An unhealthy bee can spell doom to the hive, so constant health checks are required, keepers are on constant lookout for mites that attack the  bees thus the children are made aware of the pit falls of not looking after the hives properly. This is also when the keeper can discover a new queen and, if caught in time, take her and start a new hive.  The queen is usually marked with either Tipex or nail varnish (I have it on good authority that neither harm her) so she is easily identified when checking the health of the hive and  production of honey. Afterall no queen = no honey. As nothing in this country goes to waste everything is used, from pollen through to honey, the people are very health conscious and know what is good and what is bad. They have been eco-friendly before the rest of the world even thought of the phrase.

 

Wine

 

One of the Wine Stands

 

As with all things country there is alway wine, lots of it and very very good.  Each region has its own distinctive taste to the wines produced, so it was nice to see a stand for wine distributor, disbegrup@terra.es  here you can purchase wines from around the region including the Cava’s and Mont Ferrant Brut Rose Cava. The other stand was Celler Batea from the Terra Alta region they had a fine selection of wines on display. No I could not taste any, for the one reason only, I could not get near enough!!!  When I finally caught the vinters eye, I managed to get information so a visit is in hand.

Herbs and Deli

Honey Candles

El Perello is a very interesting village, with Roman history, cave paintings as well as local history, with a Don Quotx windmill, so these deserve a really good investigation. Therefore I will at sometime be poking my nose in for a good look round.

   

 

   

 

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I was recently reminded about our feathered friends, and the time we first moved here.  I had started to dig out two small tree roots to lay the foundations of our home when I was assisted by a robin and great tit. We named them  The Clerk of Works – the robin –  the Forman – the great tit. It was wonderful to see how tame they seemed, they did not appear to be frightened of me and gave us many a laugh as the robin would inspect the hole as I was digging and I often had to stop or I would have hurt it as he would get under where I was working with the pickaxe. If I stopped, then the great tit would come and shout. The funniest thing was when my wife brought a cup of coffee out wearing her slippers, the tit hopped over doing his usual shouting then decided to galvanise us by began pecking at the slippers. These two birds gave us such a wonderful insight to our new world.

Then there is the `singing tree’.  This is an old almond tree which can be seen from our bedroom window and is used by the birds to teach their fledglings how to fend for themselves and we watch the goings on with interest. The males also use this tree in the mating season to strut their stuff, singing and bobbing up and down to attract a female.  There is also a bird of prey nesting in the trees at the edge of the lower field every morning we can hear the young screeching out to be fed I am hopeful of getting a picture or two when I can work out where it is.

Not everything is sweet and gentle, the wild boar can be so noisy at times. Take last night for instance, I am flying to the UK today so I needed to get some sleep, but there I was 2am listening to the pigs squealing away; what ever they were doing they seemed to be enjoying themselves. But at least they are back, we used to sit at night and watch some of them as they wandered round our land but at the beginning of the year a large cat arrived, again, we think it is a lynx any way it has departed because the goats are back on the maser and the pigs are being noisy.

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