Tuesday November 11, 2014
We have been spending a few nights in Burin, in a nice guesthouse rented to us from a friend. Burin has been our typical picking village, and most of the work that we have been involved with relating to the olive harvest has been here. We know many of the families quite well now, so it has been very nice to be in a place where people know who we are and why we are there. There village of Burin has amazing artwork all over the village walls, including this image of historic Palestine in the national flag colors painted outside a local school.
Today was very exciting, because the team finally got to see the process by which the olives we have been picking are made into olive oil. There is a factory in the neighboring town, so we took a trip there to see how it all worked. It ended up being the last day it was open too, so it was very lucky we had a free day and some local Palestinians who could take us there. With our picking schedule working all day, it had been impossible until this point to get to the factory during its operating hours.
Basically how it works is this: the olives are brought by the individual farmers to this factory, where they can press their olives into oil free of charge (although the owners take a percentage of the final oil product).
The olives are dumped into a bin that funnels them onto a conveyer belt. At this point, there is a lot of mess in with the olives from the harvest - sticks, leaves, dirt, etc. that will need to be cleaned and separated.
While on the conveyer belt, the olives pass through a vacuum tube that sucks the leaves and small sticks out of the pile, and blows the junk out of the building.
After the sticks and leaves are removed, the olives are rinsed and washed
and dumped into another bucket.
The olives are then brought up into a giant food processor type thing that has a huge spiral cutting edge. The olives are slowly mashed in here and cut up into pieces. The process takes a bit of time, but eventually the olives are pulverized until they are liquid.
The olive oil is then poured through a strainer to make sure all of the small pieces of olives are removed before the final product is created.
The produced olive oil then drains into a large container, where the farmers can funnel it into their own transport containers to take home or sell. They gave us pieces of fresh bread to dip under the new olive oil, and it was so so good! Amazingly fresh. And of course in accordance with Palestinian hospitality that says you can't leave a new place empty handed, we were given a whole bottle of fresh olive oil to take home. We are so excited to eat it tomorrow!