MAKING JAN ORGANIC OLIVE OIL
Over the years, living in the South of France and visiting Italy as often as I could, I’ve developed a palate for olive oil, literally tasting them oil by oil, making notes, as if they were wine. In time, olive oil became that one ingredient that I use in my cooking every day, especially in Mediterranean cuisine. JAN Organic Olive Oil is my special blend, produced and bottled by Org de Rac, one of the Swartland’s most prestigious estates. Making this olive oil, I worked on achieving a green flavour, but that was full of fruit, with accents of olive leaves, artichokes and tomatoes. It felt a lot like making wine, so I’ve even gone as far as to bottle it in a wine bottle with a cork. I just love the idea of pulling out a real cork and pushing it back in use after each use. And when cooking, the experience becomes so much more tactile when you use your thumb to direct the drizzle, whether using it in your salads or over a plate of seasonal vegetables and crudités. I hope you enjoy this special Olive Oil as much as I do. I didn’t pick the olives myself, they picked me!
Org de Rac, one of the first South African wineries to produce certified organic wine, is also one of the Swartland region’s most prestigious wine estates, but few people know that, lining their exemplary grape cultivar blocks, row upon row of olive trees bear the most amazing quality olives. Their olive oil takes on a beautiful complexity and mellow flavour that is just perfect on its own – even before cooking – and simply begs to be absorbed into a freshly torn piece of warm ciabatta.
The Swartland’s Mediterranean climate, with its long, hot summers and short, but stinging winters, makes it ideal olive-growing country. Like wine, olive oil can differ greatly depending on where it grows. On Org de Rac alone, there are two distinctly different types of soil, both of which have a profound impact on the taste of both the olives and the grapes.
When blending the olives (Org de Rac grows two different olive cultivars across the farm) from the two sections, the olive oil takes on a beautiful complexity and a mellow flavour that is just perfect on its own – even before cooking – and simply begs to be absorbed into a freshly torn piece of warm ciabatta. But over the centuries, the process of making olive oil remains so simple, and the basic steps, largely unchanged.
Step 1: Cleaning
Once the olives are harvested, they are cleaned of their leaves, stems, twigs and dust, so that only the whole, clean olives are processed for extraction.
Step 2: Grinding
During this second step in the process, the olives are ground into a paste, pips and all, which tears down the plant cells that harbour the oils.
Step 3: Malaxing
Malaxing is like mixing, but in the case of making olive oil, it involves spinning the paste at a very high speed (300 rpm, the same as a car engine) for up to 45 minutes. While spinning, the tiny droplets of oil that escape from the plant cells combine into bigger droplets, which are channeled out of the mixer.
Step 4: Racking
Although perfectly safe to consume, the raw olive oil extracted from step 3 will contain some solids and vegetal water, which may decrease its shelf life. At this stage, Org de Rac keeps the oil in barrels, where gravity takes care of the final stage of separation.
Step 5: Bottling
From the barrel, the olive oil is transferred into bottles. Some olive oil producers transfer their oil into metal cans, but however olive oil is stored, it must be kept away from direct sunlight, as this can alter the oil’s beneficial properties. This is why most olive oils are kept in dark glass bottles. JAN Organic Olive Oil is kept in a Bordeaux-style wine bottle, a popular custom with some European olive oil producers