Saturday, March 26, 2011

Making Olive Oil

I finally got good directions on how to make homemade olive oil without lots of equipment.  An acquaintance of mine started out making olive oil at home and now has a full time business selling oil.  I got a couple different sets of directions so I'm going to meld them together.

First you pick the olives.  An easy way to pick the olives is to put a tarp under the tree and whack the branches with a stick or a wide toothed rake.  You can actually hand pick them if you wanted to.  After you get the olives you sort them and get rid of any that don't look good.  Next you need to crush the olives.  You can either leave the pits in the crush or you can remove them.  You should just leave them in.  When you do, it's harder to crush than taking out the pits but there's oil in them so just figure that it will be a little harder and leave the pits in.

There are several methods of crushing the olives.  Any way will work.  You can soak them in hot water for a bit to soften them or you can just crush them as is.  You can crush them by putting them into a heavy burlap sack and crushing them with a mallet.  You can use a heavy duty pot and crush them using an electric stick blender (if you do it this way add a bit of water to make it easier).  Perhaps using a cherry pitter to pit them prior to crushing may be the way you want to go (after they’ve been soaked).  In the very olden days, prior to using a large grinding wheel, olives were ground using mortar and pestle (just as the Indians ground acorns).  You pick the method; you just need to squish up the olives.  The more crushed they are the more oil you will be able to extract.

There are a couple of methods to extract the oil now that you’ve crushed the olives.  If you crushed the olives in a burlap sack you can leave them in the sack.  If you crushed them in a pot or bowl then you can either put them into a burlap sack or a muslin cloth will also do.  The best method I found for extracting oil is to make some pressing boards and a heavy duty car jack.  Take a plank of wood and use a two by four along the front and back edge to raise the plank up two inches.  The plank needs to be a little larger than the baking sheet you are going to use next.  Then take a heavy duty baking sheet (with sides) and place it on top of plank of wood.  If you want you can fashion a drain coming out of the bottom or side of the baking sheet to easily drain off the oil that you will be extracting. Then take a two pieces of pine board that are about 12”x12”x2”.  Place one on top of the baking sheet.  Next layer the olives in the burlap sack or muslin cloth.  Place the other pine board on top to make an “olive sandwich”.   You will then need a heavy rope or a chain or wire.  Wrap this under the bottom of your plank (this is why you are using the 2x4 to raise it up a little) and up over the top.  Somehow your rope or chain or wire needs to be connected into a circle around your entire olive press.  Put the jack on top of your top pine board and have the rope on the jack.  As you raise the jack you will be putting pressure on the rope, which will in turn press the boards together.  This will be pressing out the olive oil.  Press slowly to remove the oil.  Set aside the oil.  When you don’t get any more oil take the crushed olives and mix it with equal amounts of water.  Bring it to a boil.  Put it through the press again.  You can do this three or four times to get out all the oil. 

Another way to press out the oil, instead of using the rope and jack method, you can use the c-clamp method.  I have some long sliding clamps that can be put in each corner and you can keep pressing the clamps together.  Either way will work.  I don’t like the idea of using a rope, just in case the rope or chain breaks and become a projectile! 

Get a large container that has a spigot at the bottom to drain water from the bottom.  You can use one of those ice tea jars or a five gallon bucket or anything that you can fashion.  After you get out the oil mix your oil mixture with an equal amount of warm water.  Stir well for several minutes.  Let stand for several hours.  Drain off the water from the bottom.  Then add more warm water to the oil and repeat the stir, stand, drain.  Do this several times over two days.

After this is done put a coffee filter into a large funnel.  Pour the oil into the coffee filter to filter out the impurities.  It may take several hours or a day to have it all go through the filter.  You may need to change out the filter if it gets too clogged up with gunk.  With this final step make sure that you do not have water in your final product. 

This fresh olive oil won’t taste very good.  You need to let it sit for a couple of months to enhance the flavor.  There are several ways to speed up this process.  Only fill the bottles 3/4 full and use cotton to plug the bottle rather than a lid.  Keep it away from light and in a warmer room rather than a cooler room. 

Making your own oil is a great step toward self-reliance.  It's not hard to do so I hope this has taken the mystery out of it.  Enjoy!


  1. Sounds like some work, but the way we cook with olive oil it's something we need to do. I have a friend with orchards that we've picked olives for in the past. I like using a 5 gallon bucket that is strapped to my chest and using both hands to strip the branch of the olives as you pull your hands towards your chest and the bucket.

    Great information.

  2. Thanks for the info. Why does it matter if the olive oil has a little water at the bottom? Also, can you not just boil the oil-water to evaporate the water, rather than the final step in the process you described? Please write a reply comment, thanks.

  3. Water left in the olive oil can make it degenerate quicker. You could heat the oil to evaporate the water but you want to heat it as little as possible because heat affects the flavor.

  4. Thanks so much for this awesome info! Been looking for this exact thing all day! Water makes oil go rancid faster btw, so you want as pure oil as you can get with as little water. Also boiling or cooking your olive oil makes it not "extra virgin" by European standards, and also makes it bad for you! Do your research! Thanks again!

  5. Have you considered solar processing at any level, e.g. driving-out the water via heated water, heated air, or perhaps directly in a solar-dryer (also good for drying fruit, etc)?
    Have you considered rigging your press on car ramps & backing the car down the ramp - over your press - to squeeze-out the oil?
    Have you considered a wine-press which handle is turned by a mule - a critter also useful to turn a grain grinder, low-speed water pump, keep weeds down, pull a small plow or harrow, and to guard the perimeter of the property against critters & trespassers?
    Just wondering ... thanks for the helpful site!

  6. What is the oxygenation factor in all of this? Oxidized oils are oxidants and cause inflammation in the body, which leads to disease. Letting the oil sit for months or even weeks is definitely not a good idea if you care about your health.

  7. I got a bit lost here, why do you have to keep adding water while separating the water out? And i got lost earlier too are the basic steps: collect, press, filter, store? And what is the best way to store it? Is there a way for a good supply to keep over a winter?

    1. When we added warm water it helped draw out the oil from the crushed olives. But since water isn't good for the oil, after it sits for a while to naturally separate you remove the water. We kept ours in a jar in a dark room. We also have put it into the freezer for longer storage.

  8. Lots of information there! And I appreciate it. Maybe next time you maker olive oil you could take some pictures and share them.