Touring the Castillo de Tabernas Olive Oil Mill
Things to do in Almeria Spain
Spanish olive oil is the best in the world and if you get the opportunity to go on a tour of a Spanish Olive Oil mill and taste the oil produced there you will begin to understand why the Spanish use olive oil in virtually everything – even to taking a tablespoon of olive oil a day for health reasons. Spanish olive oil is like nothing you have ever tasted, forget cod liver oil, Spanish olive oil is light and has an almost lemony flavour.
Spain is the world leader in the production, sales and export of olive oil, producing roughly half of olive oil in Europe, If you live, eat or travel through Spain you will come to appreciate the supreme quality of Spanish Olive Oil particularly that produced in the Andalusian region.
Touring the Olive Oil Mill in the Almeria Desert
The Extra Virgin Olive Oil Castillo de Tabernas comes from their own farm next to the Almeria Desert of Tabernas. More than 300,000 olive trees and 700 hectares make them one of the largest international producers of gourmet extra virgin olive oil with only 0.1 degree of natural acidity.
We were fortunate enough to tour this facility and we learned a lot about the production of olive oil and its uses and how to judge a good oil for ourselves.
Carmen was our tour guide and has an encyclopedic knowledge about olive oil production. Not only that she is passionate and informed about all that is involved with the harvest and production. This is an excellent tour and it is completely FREE!
Olives are harvested in November and December and the fruit must be picked and into the processing plant within 12 hours or the quality of the oil diminishes substantially. The fruit must not be picked off the ground it must be ‘combed’ manually from the trees into nets or some Mills have more modern equipment but even with these new machines there is no substitute for hand harvesting.
Castillo de Taberna is a small plant even though it produces 600,000 to a million litres of oil a year, The oil has 0.1 acidity which is the best in the industry. Every part of the olive is used – oil, cosmetics, massage oil; ground seeds used for heating, other parts used as fertilizer.
Carmen even explained that the crushed olive pits are recycled as filling for pillows that can be heated in the microwave and even fuel. Apparently the crushed pits take a while to burn but once they do they burn hotter and longer than any other fuel source.
According to the Olive Mill owners the “unique flavor of our oil is based on the high number of solar hours which it gets in the Almeria Tabernas Desert, a protected natural area. This produces a product with a lot of oleic acid, natural antioxidants and Vitamin E, making it the best ally of the Mediterranean Diet and a great source of natural health benefits.
In fact Carmen our guide told us that a lot of Spanish people take a tablespoon of the unfiltered olive oil every morning. Tasting this oil we found that it was light, very unlike anything we had ever tried before – nothing like that nasty North America cod liver stuff. The oil is bright, light and kind of citrusy, very easy to take a tablespoon of that.
The best pressing of a good olive oil is the first one. It must be cold pressed (no heat extraction used) and generally this pressing is unfiltered so you will get some residue (like a good wine) in the bottom of the bottle.
The flavour and quality are superb on these first pressings. The cost is immensely reasonable at the factory around $10 Canadian a bottle, at home you would pay at least double if not triple for a oil this fine a quality. The taste is light, fresh peppery and has a faint hint of fruity citrus flavour.
Beware as some of you know there has been a lot of reporting on crap olive oils in North America recently so if you want to obtain all the benefits and flavour of real olive oil – do your homework. Purchase your olive oil from a reputable store or supplier.
Tips for choosing the best Spanish Olive Oil
- Look for extra virgin olive oil – cold pressed
- Don’t buy a blend and don’t be fooled by the advertising and marketing jargon of many “name brands” that are actually blending their oils.
- Check that the oil is 100% pure with a low (under 1% acidity)
- Make sure the country of origin of the oil is noted – product of only signifies that the oil was packaged in that country
- Choose only oils grown, pressed and bottled in that specific country
- How old is it? A good bottle of extra virgin olive oil with have a “pressing” date or sell-by date. Unlike wine, olive oil does not age well. Most oils will only be “good” for one year, but to get the best flavours use within a month.
- Colour is not an indicator of good oil. The colour depends on the chlorphyll of the olives themselves when pressed. Good colour could be anything from grass green to bright yellow.
Cooking with good Spanish Olive Oil
It is a myth than you cannot cook with a good olive oil. The difficulty with olive oil is that its smoke point is quite low so it is not suitable for deep frying – although it can be done.
Here is a great quote from Dr. Joanna’s Blog
Extra virgin olive oil has an unqualified body of research supporting its role as a protective, beneficial food in a healthy diet. It is extremely versatile and can be used cold in dressings and for drizzling, as well as in almost all cooking applications. In this regard it is not only safe but also beneficial to our health, not to mention delivering exceptional flavour! So do as the Mediterranean countries have traditionally done for hundreds of years and enjoy cooking with your extra virgin olive oil.
An Olive Mill in the Almeria Desert – the Castillo de Tabernas
The Castillo land and facility have been used as movie locations: Exodus: Gods and Kings and Spanish TV shows. The Tabernas desert in fact is a well known filming location for the spaghetti Westerns of old. However, these days the desert is used for filming everything from TV shows like Game of Thrones to Spanish soap operas and it is still a stand in for a good cowboy film. Other famous movies filmed here include: Cleopatra, Never Say Never (James Bond), Lawrence of Arabia, Indiana Jones, Conan the Barbarian and How I Won the War with John Lennon.
At the end of our the tour we had a taste of the oil from the 3 types of olives they grow, as well a green filtered and unfiltered oil. The green unfiltered oil was our favourite and a bargain at $10 Canadian a bottle, perfect for pouring over our Tostados, drizzled into our gazpacho – we are now confirmed Spanish olive oil fans.
And if you want a tour send Carmen an email, she speaks English incredibly well (far better than our Spanish) and she will get back to you right away to arrange a tour, [email protected]
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