After trying our hand at harvesting our own olives recently, What to Do With Fresh Olives, I wanted to give the kiddos a taste of the agricultural sciences. When I was browsing the recent edition of Edible Shasta-Butte magazine, an ad for Lucero Olive Oil caught my attention. The fact that the company is third-generation family owned and operated business resonated with me and I thereby made arrangements to visit their mill and store front in Corning, California, known as the Olive City, is home to the Bell Carter Olive Company, which is the world’s largest ripe olive cannery. Corning also has a significant agriculture industry centered around olives, olive oil, dried plums (prunes) including the “Sunsweet” label, walnuts, and almonds.
As we toured the facilities and tasted the multitudes of award winning oils and balsamic vinegars, it was evident their knowledge and experience have elevated the science to an art. The Lucero Olive Oil company has won more acclaim for it’s Extra Virgin Olive Oils than any other producer in North America with over 100 awards.
The Lucero family owns about 500 acres of olive trees and purchases additional olives from other growers to meet their production demands. The mill is certified organic though the growers have no need to spray their crops for pesticides as there is no need (few pests feed on the evergreen tree) and the arid soils and climate in the northern Sacramento valley are perfect for the tree native to the Mediterranean and thus they require no fertilizers.
Two types of trees are used in the production of the the olive oils produced here … Seviano trees, which require hand picking to harvest the fruit, or alternatively, laying a tarp below the tree and shaking the fruit loose and Arbequina trees which can be harvested mechanically as the limbs are more flexible. The harvesting machine essentially drives over the top of the trees and with rubber fingers extracts the fruit from the branches and drops it to a conveyor belt. Extra Virgin Olive Oil by definition is pressed only once, heated no higher than 78 degrees, and with an acidity less than 0.5. Proudly, Lucero’s oil has never been higher than 0.2, surpassing even imported olive oils.
After our tour of the facilities, we sat down to enjoy a tasting of the many varieties and blends of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We learned to first warm the oil by cupping it in our hands. We then brought it to our nose to smell the various fruity and nutty aromas. We then sampled by sipping and slurping – the kids got a kick out of that!
Upon the conclusion of our tour, we enjoyed sampling additional blends and foods available only at the store or by mail-order including mustards, olive tapenades, and to our delight vanilla ice cream served with chocolate infused extra virgin olive oil and strawberry white balsamic vinegar. I can not wait to share our local discovery with my friends and family and to try out some of their delicious recipes.