Finding things to do and places to visit in Jordan on the weekends is becoming more and more tedious as we knock things off the list. We’ve already hit the major tourist sites, scoured the guide-book, and are now left to our own devices and suggestions from others for things to do. Luckily for us, a tour of an olive oil plant was offered so we took advantage of the opportunity. (In case you didn’t know (I didn’t), Jordan is known for its olive oil. Olive trees are everywhere here and are the known as the oldest trees in the world. We often see people collecting olives from the trees in the neighborhoods).
Had we not been part of a caravan to the factory, we would have passed it by, as we’ve already done on numerous occasions. The exterior of the factory is unassuming, like most buildings here, but once we entered, I was surprised to see such a large operation. We went on a brief tour of the factory, sampled a couple different types of olive oil, grabbed a snack, and then bought a few things in the gift shop.
[FYI: The name of the factory is Terra Rossa, or ‘Red Soil,’ named for the indigenous type of red clay soil produced by the weathering of limestone. Compared to most clay soils, terra rossa has good drainage characteristics making it a popular soil type for olive and wine production. The main types of olives used for the production of olive oil in Jordan are Nabali, Improved Nabali, Souri, and Roman.]
The process for olive milling (or pressing) is as follows:
1. Washing: The first step is to clean the olives, removing stems, leaves, twigs, and other debris left with the olives.
2. Crushing: The olives are ground into a paste with a millstone to tear the flesh cells of the olive to facilitate the release of the oil from the olives.
3. Malaxing: Mixing the crushed olive paste.
4. Separation of oil from vegetable water and solid (done through centrifugation)
After the tour we tasted a couple of olive oil samples and then were treated to manaeesh (dough topped with za’atar (thyme with sesame seeds and olive oil) or cheese), which were cooked over an open fire of olive pomace logs.
After our snack and tea, we made it to the gift shop to purchase a few bottles of sinolea olive oil and a couple of terra-cotta serving bowls to accompany the oil. I haven’t tried cooking with this gold standard of olive oil (and we’ll have to keep it in the food safe with our honey from Yemen), but I’ll let you know if I can detect any difference and if it’s worth it. 🙂
[FYI: Sinolea is a method used to extract oil from the olives. Extra virgin olive oil extracted from this method is said to be the “flower of the oil” as there is minimal interference in the extraction of the oil because no heat is applied. In this method of extraction, polyphenols (the good for you stuff in EVOO) are concentrated 3X more than in regular EVOO.]