A Visit To an Authentic Oil Mill
La “Almàssera” is located in Carrer Sant Josep in the town of Quatretonda, Valencia and has been in continuous operation for over 152 years. For 4 generations it has been run by the same family. Oil is obtained naturally and cold-pressed, without the intervention of any chemical processes.
From November to January the mill is busy producing oil for a number of local olive farmers but when we visited in July and stepped beyond the heavy wooden doors we entered a world of peace and serenity and one little changed since production began. Then the grinding stones were operated by burros stabled in the courtyard behind the mill, and the presses were operated by hand. Now electricity provides the power. To see the production process, follow this video link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJGnp2Tl8PU
We telephoned in advance to ask if we could come and buy some oil. We spoke little Spanish and Juan Domingo, the current owner whose family have produced the oil for over four generations, spoke little English but we hoped we had agreed a time and day and trusting to this, we arrived and were greeted by our charming host. He showed us around and also treated us to some musica. Juan Domingo is a clarinettist and once visited a music festival in England as part of a group in 1979. He is a very talented musician although he did not play the clarinet for us but the recorder. I have never heard a recorder sound so beautiful.
Fortunately for us a neighbour who spoke perfect English arrived shortly after this recital and was kind enough to act as our translator. We learnt about the whole process, were shown the original grinding stones now abandoned in the garden and the donkey panniers used to carry the olives from the groves to the mill. We were invited to taste the oil and compare it to that which was produced in Alcoy which cost five times more, was non organic and processed with chemicals. The difference in taste was unmistakeable.
We learnt that there are hundreds of varieties of olives and the best are those which have not been irrigated. They tend to be much smaller because the water content is lower but the oil is better. The oil we bought was produced from the manzanilla olive.
Although the mill processes for other clients whose olives may not be organic, that produced by Juan Domingo is organic and totally free of chemicals and it is this which he sells in L’Almassera and which we purchased ( 5litres in a plastic bottle. It is recommended to rebottle the oil in dark glass and store in the cool).
If you want to have Juan process your own crop you will need a minimum of 300kgs. It can take between 3 and 13 kgs of olives to produce 1ltr of oil depending on various factors. Do not confuse this authentic old mill with the co-operative mill on the outskirts of the town.
As we said farewell, Juan insisted on giving us a bucket of his organic plums from his orchard. We told him we would be back to buy more of his oil when our current supply was gone.
© Words Beryl Noyce
© Photos Peter Noyce. To licence an image contact me