We arrived in Amelia on November 17th after taking a train from Rome to Terni and renting a car. It was an incredibly warm and picture perfect day as we drove through the autumn coloured countryside
When we arrived at the olive mill, frantoio, we were greeted by Francesco and his parents Anna and Vincenzo. They had already pressed the olives from their own trees and were now in the middle of pressing the olives from neighbouring farmers who seemed to be arriving non-stop. I could see our visit had not come at the most convenient time for them but you wouldn’t have known from the hospitality we were shown. Aside from showing us in detail the steps of pressing the olives, we were treated to a fabulous lunch in the frantoio, which happens to boast its own private kitchen. Anna prepared us lunch that was mostly cooked in a huge open fireplace beside our table. The meal consisted of pasta, sausages, grilled meat, bruschetta, salad and pastries. This was all washed down with their own wine and limoncello. Several dishes showcased the fresh olive oil, which was drizzled freely. Yum!
I can definitely say that this year’s oil is delicious. According to Francesco it was a hot summer and the oil is of excellent quality but the production volume was far less than last year. I found it to have loads of grassy fruity flavour. This is typical of good Umbrian extra virgin olive oil.
The Suatoni family speak very little English and my Italian is even more challenged; however, they had a charming new English speaking helper, Riccardo, who was able to bridge the gap for us. In the past Rachel has been along on these trips and I could get by with her excellent Italian translations.
We took loads of pictures and Ricardo was kind enough to take us to another farm where his family were still picking olives. We had a go at it and soon realized that it is back breaking work. It made us more respectful of the amount of labour that is involved in each harvest.
We had a wonderful day in Amelia and wished we had much longer to stay and soak in the smells and ambiance of this pristine Umbrian town. Our visit renewed our sense of connection to this wonderful oil which has become the number one staple in our kitchen. We are proud to be able to share it with our customers in Canada and the United States. Stay tuned because Rachel will be expanding the American side of Amelia Oil in the new year.
I am just back from Amelia and I still have the taste of olio nuovo in my mouth: green, spicy with bitter almonds and fresh cut grass. The harvest progresses and there are lots of healthy olives this year. Francesco, Anna and Vincenzo are hard at work in the frantoio in Amelia. It was great to join in the action and spend some time at my favourite place in the world–the olive mill.
More photos and videos from my trip coming soon.
“I don’t want to have lamb! I don’t agree with the massacre of all these innocent lambs just for Easter,” Mario exclaimed. I could not believe what I was hearing! Mario and I have eaten lamb cooked over the coals many times and we had always reclined afterwards with satisfied mumbles licking greasy fingers. My mouth had been watering for months over the possibility of thinly sliced chops with that hint of smoky flavour accompanied by a bold Umbrian red wine (where I live in Piedmont there is no real tradition of cooking over the coals of the hearth, although there is lots of bold red wine).
I was going to have my way or else. After a long lecture on the anthropological symbolism of the sacrificial lamb, I began to work the gastronomic side of the argument for lamb at Easter with a full exposition of possible recipes and accompaniments. It was a hard sell, but the goloso in Mario got the best of him. Eventually my partner in crime gave in: he went out on Saturday afternoon and came home with some beautiful lamb chops from a local butcher.
For me, certain holidays just have to have certain flavours and Easter is all about the lamb. Mario has lit the fire and my stomach is beginning to rumble. I walked into the kitchen and Mario had begun to prepare the artichokes that he was going to fry in last year’s olive oil right over the hot coals of the fire. I reached for a cork screw and took care of decanting the wine…
I arrived on Wednesday evening with the warm spring sun setting behind the green hills and casting a golden light on the hill town of Amelia. People were lighting their fireplaces in preparation for the evening meal and to fend off the chilly night air. The smell of wood smoke wrapped around me, taking me back to the years that I spent here. I felt like I was coming home.
Unfortunately the good weather did not hold; the weather at Easter is notoriously unpredictable and unsettled in Italy and this year the holiday is earlier than usual. This is a particularly bad year–it has only stopped raining for a few brief moments in the last few days. Although this has not made for the most pleasant holiday, it is good for local agriculture. Umbria had a very dry year and a lot of rain is needed to fill up the very meager aquifers. As I look out at the rain, I try to think of the positive effects of all of this water on the olive trees.
All I can do for now is take my place by the camino, stay warm and enjoy Mario’s wonderful cooking alle braccia (all finished with a lovely drizzle of olive oil).
I guess I have been hibernating a bit lately; these last few days have felt like winter here in Piedmont. Yes, this is my excuse for neglecting this blog. However, I tried to cheer myself up by thinking of spring. I am going down to Amelia for Easter and I will have more updates on Francesco and his olive groves. I am still hoping to take the ONAOO olive oil tasting course in May, but I may need to rob a bank first. I still haven’t understood why the course is so expensive. I guess most courses that give you a professional qualification tend to come with a hefty price tag.
We still have some tasty 2007 olive oil as well as fresh 2008 Amelia oil. Check out our web site to place an order. We ship to the States.