The olive press of l’Oulibo is located on the banks of the Canal du Midi. Those on a French barge cruise can stop by and taste the famous Lucques olives.
Holidaymakers passing through the Canal du Midi, on a French barge cruise for example, will find themselves with the opportunity to drop by the famous olive press of l’Oulibo. Staff at the mill welcome visitors and, after a one-hour visit, guests are invited to a tasting of the table olives, olive oils and other oil-containing products, such as tapenade.
But what exactly is the process behind the olive production and the delicacies that are made of it?
The Table Olives of l’Oulibo
At the olive grove of l’Oulibo, two types of olives are grown: the Lucques olive (most commonly used as a green table olive) and the Picholine olive (primarily used as a cocktail olive). The process of growing and processing the olives is completely artisanal at this mill, meaning the olives are handpicked.
The green and black olives actually come from the same fruit, the only difference being that the green ones are picked in an earlier stage (between September and October) and the black ones in a later stage (between November and December), when they’re riper.
Immediately after harvesting, the olives are taken to the l’Oulibo mill, before being processed within 48 hours. To preserve the fruits, they must be put in an alkaline bath for 10 hours, before being rinsed and brined over 10 days in a mix of water and salt. In a separate canning factory they are finally sorted to become real table olives, to be sold on and consumed.
The Making of the Olive Oil
Not all of l’Oulibo’s olives are sold for the table, however. Between 500 and 800 tonnes of them are pressed each year and turned into a 100% pure and natural olive oil. Each year the mill produces between 75 000 and 120 000 litres of olive oil, which is sold as an artisanal product with no food preservatives or additives.
The harvesting of the olives for pressing is done mechanically and by hand. The first step after harvesting is to remove all the leaves and rinse them. In the second step, the olives are crushed; at this particular mill, the crushing is either done with a millstone or with a hammermill. The resulting olive paste is kneaded at more or less 27°C for a maximum of 40 minutes. After that, the liquid and the solid matter are separated in a horizontal settling tank.
In the third and last step of the process, the liquid is put in to a juice extractor and the precious olive oil is obtained then stocked in vats.
Excursions to l’Oulibo
Enthusiasts of artisanal products will appreciate a stop at this authentic olive press when travelling through the Languedoc region between Béziers and Carcassonne. As the cooperative is located close to Canal du Midi, it is also a popular stop for holidaymakers on a French barge cruise, and cruise providers offer special excursions for their passengers to go see the mill and taste its products for themselves.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, a barge cruise provider who can arrange a special excursion to l’Oulibo for you on a French barge cruise. Beside artisan cruises, we offer many other thematic cruises to suit each and every passion.