A friend of ours owns a small apartment in L’Hospitalet de l’Infant south of Tarragona. We find an unpretentious small town with great sand beaches that are still quiet in the beginning of June. Most holiday apartment houses are not more than three storeys high, no construction “sins” here. Our apartment is modern and has a large balcony from which we can see and hear the Mediterrenean Sea. Quite a large swimming pool belongs to our house. We will stay here for about ten days relaxing, enjoying the local fish and wine and exploring the area.
Our first excursion takes us to Vandellòs in the mountains.
Vandellòs and its oil mill
We drive some ten kilometers into the mountains and reach Vandellòs. El Molí, the oil mill, is open.
We enter. There is a huge shelf with oil carafes.
A group of people has just finished a guided tour. The group leaves and the manager looks at us. “You have not reserved – you should have reserved – do you speak castellán?” Yes, we do, and the manager spontaneously decides to show his mill to us – also without us having reserved.
We are in the old cooperative oil mill that has been built in the 1920’s. It operated until early this century and is now a museum. The new mill is just next door.
The manager explains the oil making process to us.
The olive trees growing in the region are called Arbequí, Regue and Salivenc.
Arbequí is the main olive – the olives are very small.
The trees are about two meters high. The men used to collect the olives standing on small ladders while the women picked the olives that had fallen on to the ground.
Today, the olives are taken directly from the trees. The mornings are reserved to collect the olives and in the afternoon they are immediately processed.
Olives with bones and branches are smashed in the mill.
The smashed mass is then packed into flat baskets. The baskets are piled on top of one another forming a tower that is pressed to extract the liquid. Pressing occurs once to extract extra virgin oil.
The resulting liquid is a blend of water (at the bottom) and oil (on the surface). The oil needs to be skimmed using a spatula.
Olive oil is versatile. It is used in the kitchen, but also for health products and for cleaning – and even for lamps.
To round off our tour, the manager offers us a piece of bread with olive oil. Delicious.
There is a shop next door, where we buy some olive oil from Vallendòs and some more local products like honey and jam. This will be some nice presents for the neighbours back home.