Tuesday, December 13, 2016

12/13 -- Olive Oil, Cooking Class, Pottery

Compared to the last 4 days, today was really easy. We visited a olive mill and learned about making high quality olive oil and the challenges in the market to determine what is and isn't real good Italian olive oil. Apparently many vendors take liberty with the truth and the balsamic vinegar vendors are right behind them in questionable claims.

We got an explanation of each machine and then went to the tasting room. We started with a small sample of 'ordinary extra virgin olive oil' to sniff before we got a lesson on how to prepare, smell, and taste the oil. We started with a 'light' oil that they would use to garnish fish. The amazing thing to me was that olive oil is used to drizzle on everything and there are pairings just like wine. Then we got a much more intense oil to try, one that he suggested using with steak, and the difference was noticeable. Finally, the ordinary oil was passed around again and we realized how bland it was compared to the other two.
The machine at the far end (you can barely see it) strips off the
leaves and stems and crushes the olive, seed and all. The  next
one uses a computer (on the right) to control the next stage of
processing and each of the five segments can do something

This is where the 15% of the product that is oil gets separated
from the 85% that is not oil, which is recycled as biofuel and
other products.

This machine does the final filtering and we could look in the
rectanglular metal vat to see what got filtered out. YUCK
Don't be fooled into thinking unfiltered olive oil is somehow
more special! It is really icky.

Their oil will keep its intensity for almost 2 years, until it is opened, when it should be used (but not in cooking) within 3 months. After that, its unique flavor characteristics start to fade and it is fine (but expensive) for cooking.

Back in the bus, we headed to the home of Christina, a l chef for a cooking lesson. Her house has been in the family for 9 generations and they can't imagine why it would ever be sold to a non-family member. We helped prepare roast pork, fresh orecchietti (little ears), and raspberries with mascarpone. Everyone who wanted to got a chance to chop or knead or create pasta shapes or whip up the mascarpone with sugar and milk. Then we got to eat it all. Lunch was wonderful and we bought her cookbook and took a short walk before heading to a local potter.
The house Christina and her family live in.

The valley view from the house

Chris (right) learns how to make the pasta
dough under Christina's guidance.
He told us about his business and threw 2 pots in short order. We looked at the kilns and the items waiting to be fired, and ended up in the shop, where I found two irresistable pots.

An artist painting in the pottery studio

The next several photos show the very short
process of throwing a pot (IF you know
what you're doing....)

A pot ready to be fired.  I really liked the way the  handles
were done.
On the way back to the villa, we had a wonderful view of the full moon and then dinner (though hardly anybody was that hungry after our late lunch) before packing to move to our next location tomorrow.

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