In Jordan, autumn is the perfect period for olives harvesting. Olives can be picked from early October, but the bulk of the harvest normally waits for the first big rains. Once harvested, the olives quickly take the path of the press, to be transformed into … olive oil!
Our piece of advice; take this opportunity to observe the whole process, to taste freshly pressed olive oil…and all in all, to have a new and original experience 🙂 . So pay a visit to a press, you will not regret it!
Olive oil production…
The first heavy autumn rains – beginning rather early this year – is the start signal for the collection of olives. Rain has an important virtue when it comes to olive oil: first it will clean the foliage, and it will also contribute to ripen the fruit. Once the first rain has come, it is still necessary to wait for 7 to 10 days before going to the press, in order to have just perfect matured olives. Jordan is the eighth largest producer of olive oil in the world, with 24,000 tons per year.
« Zeyt zeytoune », does it ring a bell to you? This word designates « olive oil » in Arabic language. There are several variants depending on the dialect. In Jordan, if you ask for « zeyoune » in the restaurant, we will bring you beautiful olives!
In Jordan, economy relies heavily on « short cycle ». So many jordanians buy their oil straight from the presses, and especially in the province of Ajloun (one hour drive from Amman). This green and mountainous province is famous for its beautiful olive groves … and therefore its oil.
Ajloun is also known for its remarkably renovated castle …
Olive oil production : instructions
In the press, the olives are thrown in bulk in the tank. Next step : a conveyor belt to go to cleaning and washing.
Then, they are crushed as is, with their nuclei. There is a good reason for that : this method releases an acid, which will better preserve the oil. During this stage, temperature must remain below 27 ° C to ensure the certified « cold press extraction » quality.
4 to 10 kilograms of olive are necessary to get one liter of oil, according to their quality and their degree of maturity.
Then comes the « decantation stage, » where the liquid is separated from the solid paste. The liquid issued by that operation goes to the next step, while the solid waste (« pomace ») is stored outside. Nothing is lost, nothing is created….everything goes to the oil or to the compost!
Last step is decantation of the oil. Liquid is put into a centrifuge to separate the oil from the water. At the end of the process, olive oil is obtained, and ready to be put in a can. Everyone can brings his own containers , but one can also find some on the spot.
The oil is stored in pretty 4 gallons golden cans :-). You can adapt your order, depending of the money you can afford. In 2019, freshly pressed oil was sold around 6 jod / kg).
If you only want a small quantity, you will also be offered cans of 3 kg. For experts, it seems to exist different qualities, but we do not know enough to tell you about it … The oil from the press has a beautiful golden-green color, and the smell is just…awesome.
From what we observed during our visit to the press, everyone brings his harvest and recovers his oil, like this gentleman, watching the beginning of the process for his personal harvest …
The weighing is now done electronically, but this beautiful manual balance has made us eye.
Tourism related to olives
The production of olive oil is part of the Jordanian terroir. In the north of the country, every family owns its own private olive grove. In Lebanon, the custom says that every Christian family house has its own vineyard to produce wine. In Jordan, it’s a little similar, but for olives! Ajloun, Irbid, Umm Qais, and even Amman … everyone here has good reason to be proud of his production.
Also, nice tourist initiatives are emerging, in order to make known this important part of the local heritage. For example, the Baraka Destinations Agency, based in Amman, offers outings dedicated to the discovery of this tradition.
The project started in 2015 at Umm Qais. Today, many offers appear in the catalog, one of which is perfectly adapted to passing travelers. As part of the Philodemus project, the agency offers an experience of 90 to 120 minutes for 35 JOD, including visit of press, tasting, snack break … and even the possibility of bringing back olive oil with you .
Personally, we like the philosophy of this agency, which aims to develop alternative tourism, especially in somehow less touristic areas of Jordan! 🙂
- And since you are in the North of Jordan … several sites are essential, Jerash, Umm Qays, the castle of Ajloun …
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