Olive oil milling underway in Madera

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Consumers seeking the freshest olive oil would be wise to select products which are grown in California. (KFSN)

Consumers seeking the freshest olive oil would be wise to select products which are grown in California.

Madera is home to the state's biggest organic olive oil producer. A bin of olives being dumped represented the first harvest of the season at the Enzo Olive Oil Company. The olives were washed and sorted before they could be crushed.

Vincent Ricchiuti of the Enzo Olive Oil Company said, "The first day of olive harvest is always exciting. It's a special time of year. It only happens for a few weeks."

Ricchiuti grows over 400 acres of organic olives. The darker olives are more mature but that doesn't determine when harvest begins. Vincent explained, "We send the olives off to a lab and they tell us the oil content that is in the olive."

Once the oil content reaches 35-40% it is time for them to be pressed. Ricchiuti said, "The crusher spins at 3000 rpms and absolutely pulverizes everything about that olives, the pit, the skins, the meat, everything." The olives move to the malaxer which heats up the paste and mixes it together. The decanter then separates the liquid from the solids. Then a vertical centrifuge separates the oil from water. What's left is Enzo organic extra virgin olive oil.

Ricchiuti said, "In order to get an extra virgin grade in California you have to pass two tests. You have to pass a chemical analysis and you also have to pass a sensory evaluation. So we have to send our oil to the California Olive Oil Council. They certify them."

Enzo began making olive oil in 2011 but has seen tremendous growth in just a few years. "To Williams Sonoma picking us up then being featured in the New York Times."

And what you notice about the freshly pressed olive oil is its aromatic smell as well as a pepper kick.
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