It is the olive season. Harvesting season. Last weekend we went to the village and we visited one of the old olives presses places. From the moment I entered the place, the smell of the olives threw me in a state of reminiscence as I remembered my childhood when I first smelled it. And it is going to be hard for me to explain about the smell, a place redolent of olive scent. It is a great, amazing, strong smell, one of a kind, one of the best fragrances. It has the smell of the ground, the nature, the trees.
And what’s perfect than bringing home the finest olive oil and the most delicious olives to enjoy with pita bread and labné, or with zaatar ( a mix of dried thyme, sumac, toasted sesame and olive oil), we call it “tartine zaatar”. There is also this tradition to fry some sweet dough, called Zalebieh, in the first new crop of olive oil.
Olive season is one of the most important season for the villagers because all the crop is preserved for a couple of years, some of it is sold as olives and as olive oil. Almost every family in my village has its own crop, its own trees. There are two ways of harvesting the olives, either by picking the olives by hand, the nice big ones, these would be preserved for eating, or “hitting” the olive tree with a stick and the olives will fall on a cloth placed under the tree.
These are collected, brought to olives presses and pressed and olive oil is extracted. Usually the black olives are pressed unless the grains were flawless, nice and big.
The process of pressing olives is simple and nice. They start by splitting the olives from the leaves ..
Then the olives are being washed in water…
… then sent to be ground and the paste is spread on a fabric made of goat’s hair… and then pressed and olive oil is extracted..
..then after being pressed, the oil is separated from the water and pulp and is poured into the jars or bottles…
After being pressed and oil is extracted, the olives residue is not thrown away but it is used during winter to set aflame in the fireplace, along with woods.
I have tasted some of our olive oil and it tastes great, it is sharp, dense, and new. In the past, villagers used to eat and enjoy some drizzled fresh olive oil on a hot fresh loaf of saj bread baked by ladies in the village on the same day of olives presses. Fresh olive oil, fresh bread… How wonderful!!!
The dessert below has nothing to do with olives harvesting, but I mentioned it because it is one of the different kind of sweets that villagers bring along to the olives harvest to give them strength so they can continue their day. And because I ate alot of it during the weekend, either with biscuits or plain. This sweet is called “Raha” it’s chewy, coated with powdered sugar has different flavors and it is yummii, so delicious.